Seven farmer outfits from Punjab have prepared a joint report on farmer suicides in the state by compiling three government-commissioned studies by top Punjab universities, which they will now present before the Punjab and Haryana High Court to seek compensation for the victims’ kin.
Over 16,000 farmers and rural labourers took their own lives in Punjab in 15 years between the year 2000 to 2015, a joint report has revealed. The studies were commissioned by the previous SAD-BJP government. Out of total 16,606 suicide cases, mostly due to debt, 9,007 were farmer suicides and 7,234 were suicides by rural labourers. According to the report, six districts of Punjab were the worst affected and accounted for 88 per cent of such suicides. The studies by Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) , Ludhiana, Punjabi University Patiala and Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) Amritsar covered 22 districts of Punjab and blamed ‘debt’ as the reason behind most of these cases.
“The top three universities of Punjab have submitted their reports of field surveys about farmer and labourer suicides in Punjab from 2000 to 2015 few months back. All seven farmer unions have complied the reports of these universities into a single report to have collective data for Punjab to strengthen our claim in the High Court where we had raised the issue of alarming suicide rate among farmers in Punjab and demanded compensation and rehabilitation of the families of deceased farmers,” said Bhartiya Kisan Union ( Dakunda) General Secretary Jagmohan Singh.
The unions had filed a writ before the HC, after which they were aksed to present an authenticated report about the farmers suicides in Punjab.
Advocate Arti, who represents farmers unions, said that the joint report has been prepared for this purpose. She said that this report is likely to presented before the division bench of the HC on January 12, which is the next date of the hearing.
PAU’s survey under Prof. Sukhpal Singh, Head of Economics and Social Department, in six districts revealed that 14,667 farmers and labourers committed suicide in these district from 2000 to 2015, which included 1238 suicides in Ludhiana, 1423 in Moga, 1706 in Barnala, 3094 in Bathinda, 3818 in Sangrur and 3388 in Mansa.
Economist Prof Sucha Singh Gill from CRRID Chandigarh said: “The report is an eye-opener. Farmers suicides in Punjab started in late 1990s and now they have reached to an alarming situation…”
Meanwhile, this report has also revealed that the farm debt had increased from Rs 5700 crore in 1997, to above Rs 80000 crores now. Out of these loans, 62 per cent belongs to government/organised banks and 38 per cent to moneylenders. It points out that 64 per cent of total farm income goes to repaying loans. Ironically, there are 13 per cent farmers in Punjab whose debt is more than their annual income for two years.
The report also suggests several measures to stop the suicides of small and marginal farmers, including waiving off all types of farm loans, compensation to the tune of Rs 10 lakh to each family where a suicides take place, continuation of free power and water supply to agri-sector, crop diversification, among others.