Updated: December 2, 2019 6:53:19 am
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs told Parliament last week that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) had done away with diversified data on farmer suicides in its latest report as many states reported the figure to be “nil”, and hence recording reasons for the suicides was “untenable”.
However, an analysis of previous NCRB data shows that states such as Bihar and West Bengal have never sent any data on farmer suicides. Still, the agency published the data with reasons for suicides.
The Indian Express had reported on November 9 that the latest NCRB report does not enlist reasons for farmer suicides. In its previous reports, the agency had listed reasons under categories such as farm distress, crop failure, loans, family problems, illness, etc.
Former NCRB officials have questioned the reason cited by the government not to classify farmer suicides data, as resulting from agrarian crisis or debt or personal reasons. “In the 2015 and 2016 reports too many states reported ‘nil’ farmer suicides. That does not mean the available data must not be categorised according to causes of suicides. If this argument was valid, farmer suicide data itself should not be published,” an ex-NCRB officer said.
The latest NCRB report, which compiles ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides’ in 2016, shows that as may as nine states reported “nil” suicides by farmers — including Bihar, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Goa and Himachal Pradesh.
Of these, Bihar, West Bengal and Uttarakhand have consistently sent “zero” as the figure for “farmer/cultivator” suicides (including in 2014 and 2015). Doubts have been raised about this decision by the states earlier as well, with a large section of the population in Bihar and West Bengal engaged in agriculture.
In previous reports, even where loans were cited as reason for farmer suicide, these were sub-categorised as per the source of the money, such as banks, moneylenders and micro-finance institutions. The reports also recorded socio-economic status and landholding of each suicide victim.
This too was done away with this time.
On November 27, to a question by Rajya Sabha Congress MP Husain Dalwai on why such data had been withheld, MoS Home G Kishan Reddy had said in a written reply, “As informed by NCRB, many States/ Union Territories reported ‘Nil’ data on suicides by Farmers/ Cultivators and Agricultural laborers after several validations, even while reporting suicides in other professions. Due to this limitation, national data on causes of suicide in farming sector is untenable and not published separately.”
The government has refused to answer other questions too in Parliament recently on farmer suicides, with the Ministry of Agriculture saying only data till 2016 as published by the NCRB was available.
In contrast, in July 2018, in response to a question by an MP on “rising” farmer suicides, then agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh had released “provisional data” for 2016, more than a year before the data was actually published by NCRB.
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