A total of 1,674 farmers/agricultural labourers committed suicide between 2000 and 2016 in the seven districts of Punjab – Mukatsar Sahib, Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala, Hoshiarpur, Rupnagar and SAS Nagar – according to a survey commissioned by the previous SAD-BJP government in March 2016, the report of which was submitted to the state government last month. For the statewide survey, the 22 districts of Punjab were divided between three universities – Punjabi University in Patiala, Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) in Amritsar and Punjab University in Chandigarh.
The survey for the seven district mentioned above was conducted by Punjabi University, which has submitted its report. The other two universities are yet to submit their survey report for the rest 15 districts. As per the survey report, the overall figure of suicides in the seven districts in question shot up between April 2013 to December 2016, during which period 572 farmers ended their lives. Of the total 1,674 who committed suicide, 781 were farmers and 948 farm labourers.
Ironically, of the seven districts, the highest number of suicides (692) was reported from Mukatsar Sahib, the home district of Parkash Singh Badal who has been the CM for five terms. Of the 692 suicides, 427 were reported during 2000-2013 while the rest 265 took place in the past three years alone. Most of those who committed suicides were debt-ridden. Patiala, the home district of incumbent CM Captain Amrinder Singh, stood at the second number, with 342 suicides during 2000-2016, including 152 in the past three years.
The third was Faridkot (137), followed by SAS Nagar (35), Fatehgarh Sahib (55), Hoshiarpur (29) and Rupnagar (20). As per the survey, a majority of those who committed suicides were in the category of dependents like students or housewives or child/old/sick people and they took painful ways to kill themselves by consuming poisonous substance (sulphas tablets/pesticides/insecticides) or hanging themselves at homes or from trees.
“The reasons (for suicides) included rising input costs, stagnant yields, no appreciable increase in output prices, etc., which had reduced the farm incomes that led to severe economic and social distress among the farmers and agricultural labourers,” says the survey report. Farmers took debt almost equally from the formal and informal sources of finance while agricultural labourers preferred to take loans from informal sources. The average debt on farmers was between over Rs 4-9 lakh. Farm labourers who committed suicides were having an average debt of Rs 68,000 to Rs 2 lakh.