After withholding data on incidents of lynchings, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has released figures on farmers’ suicides but with a key element from the previous edition missing this time — reasons for the suicides.
The bureau’s latest Accidental Death and Suicide report for 2016 shows that while Maharashtra saw a 20 per cent dip from the previous year, in line with the national trend, the state continued to top the list with 2,550 of the 6,270 farmers’ suicides recorded nationwide.
Significantly, the NCRB did not release the data on farmers’ suicides alongwith its much-delayed crime data on October 21, the day of voting in the Maharashtra Assembly elections. Overall, the data shows that while farmer suicides have dropped by almost 21 per cent, those by farm labourers have gone up by 10 per cent.
In its previous reports, however, the NCRB had included reasons behind farmers’ suicides under categories such as farm distress, crop failure, loans, family problems, illness, etc.
Even under loans, there were sub-categories on the source, including banks, money lenders and micro-finance institutions. The reports also included data on the socio-economic status and land-holding of each victim.
“Not only were the old categories retained but more sub-categorisation had been done to further diversify the data this time. But it’s interesting to note that this data has not been published,” said a former NCRB official who was involved in the exercise.
In another departure, farmers’ suicides have not been recorded separately but included under the category ‘Suicides by Profession’. The report for 2015 had a separate category ‘Suicides by Persons Involved in Farming Sector’ under which were six categories, including “cause-wise distribution of farmer suicides” and “land-holding-wise distribution of farmer suicides”.
The former official said the suicide data report had been compiled and submitted 18 months ago to the Home Ministry, which sought a number of clarifications. “A key question was also whether NCRB needed to collect data on farmers’ suicides at all,” he said.
The data shows that Maharashtra accounted for almost 40 per cent of all farmer suicides in the country in 2016. Karnataka (1,212) was second on the list but still recorded 50 per cent less farmers’ suicides than Maharashtra.
Compared to overall figures of 6,270 in 2016, 8,007 farmers (including land-holders and cultivators) had committed suicide in 2015 across the country. The data shows that 5,109 farm labourers committed suicide in 2016, compared to 4,595 in 2015. Even in this category, Maharashtra topped with 1,111, followed by Karnataka (867) and Madhya Pradesh (722).
In 2015, the publication of diverse sets of data on farmers’ suicides data showed that they were being exploited by micro-finance institutions.
The data showed that 80 per cent of farmers who killed themselves because of bankruptcy or debts had taken loans from banks and registered microfinance institutions — not from money lenders.
Of over 3,000 farmers who committed suicide due to debt and bankruptcy, 2,474 had taken loans from banks or microfinance institutions.
It was for the first time that the NCRB had categorised farmers’ suicides due to debt or bankruptcy based on the source of loans.
“Such data is beneficial for formulating robust policies that alleviate farm distress. By withholding such important data, the government is preventing other stakeholders in the civil society from participating in such efforts,” the former official said.
On October 21, the NCRB released its latest report on crime incidents across the country, but without publishing data collected under the new sub-heads of death due to mob lynching, murder by influential people, killing ordered by khap panchayat and murder committed for religious reasons.