LOCAL MONEYLENDERS are usually portrayed as the villains in India’s farmer-suicides narrative, but government data shows that 80 per cent of farmers killed themselves in 2015 because of bankruptcy or debts after taking loans from banks and registered microfinance institutions.
According to National Crime Records Bureau’s latest farmer-suicides data, of the over 3,000 farmers who committed suicides across the country in 2015 due to debt and bankruptcy, 2,474 had taken loans from banks or microfinance institutions.
It’s for the first time that the NCRB has categorised farmers’ suicides due to debt or bankruptcy based on the source of loans.
The figures (see page 2) show that only 10 per cent farmers had committed suicide due to debts caused by loans taken from both banks and moneylenders — the share of loans from moneylenders under this section was 9.8 per cent.
As first reported by The Indian Express on August 19, 2016, farmer suicides saw a spike of 41.7 per cent in 2015 from 2014. The year 2015 saw 8,007 suicides by farmers compared to 5,650 in 2014, according to NCRB data.
Among the states, the data showed, Maharashtra (3,030), Telangana (1,358), Karnataka (1,197), Chhattisgarh (854) and Madhya Pradesh (516) led the table. Karnataka saw a more than three-fold rise in farmer suicides in 2015, as compared to 2014 when around 300 farmers ended their lives.
“The latest data is interesting because all of us thought that moneylenders were the culprits of the piece. Even today, more than half the people take loans from moneylenders,” said Abhijit Sen, a former member of the erstwhile Planning Commission.
However, Sen said, moneylenders were more flexible compared to banks and microfinance institutions. “The organised sector is less flexible because rules don’t permit them flexibility. The microfinance sector is worse. They put pressure by telling others in self-help groups that their share would be cut if one person does not pay loans in time. This creates social pressure, as well. Many also send goons to the neighbourhood to scare borrowers,” he said.
According to the NCRB data, “bankruptcy and indebtedness” witnessed the sharpest spike in 2015, registering an almost three-fold increase (3,097) as compared to 2014 (1,163).
Similarly, farm-related issues, too, have seen a sharp spike of over 61 per cent. While 969 suicides were recorded due to crop-failure and other farm-related issues in 2014, 2015 saw 1,562 suicides in this category.
Among states, Maharashtra (1,293) reported the maximum number of suicides due to “indebtedness”, followed by Karnataka (946) and Telangana (632). With 131 deaths, Telangana reported the highest number of suicides by farmers who took loans from moneylenders, with 131 deaths, followed by Karnataka (113).
Similarly, farm-related issues such as crop failure forced 769 farmers to end their lives in Maharashtra, followed by 363 in Telangana, 153 in Andhra Pradesh and 122 in Karnataka. Family problems (933) and illness (842) were other top reasons for suicides among farmers in 2015, according to NCRB data.