Suicides in the farm sector have steadily declined over four years, according to the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
A comparative study of data on Accidental Deaths and Suicides released by NCRB shows that suicides in the agriculture sector have declined by 10% — from 11,379 in 2016 to 10,281 in 2019.
When cultivators and farm labour are taken separately, there is a much steeper decline in suicides among the latter. According to the data, while suicides among cultivators (landowners and those cultivating on lease) declined by 5 per cent, suicides among farm hands declined by 15%.
It is important to put the 2016 data in context, as that year had seen a 21% drop in suicides by farmers (cultivators) compared to 2015, but a 10% increase in suicides by farm labour. Overall suicides in the farm sector in 2016 witnessed a drop over 2015.
With two successive years of drought, the year 2015 had seen a sharp jump in suicides among cultivators. More than 8,000 suicides were recorded that year, an increase of almost 40% over 2014.
Notably, the NCRB has released data for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 together. The data for 2017 and 2018 had been inordinately delayed. The last NCRB report — of the year 2016 — on farmer suicides was released in November 2019. Since that last report, as reported by The Indian Express on November 9, 2019, the NCRB has done away with causes of farmer suicides, which included reasons such as “crop failure” and “loans”.
While the data shows that suicides in the farm sector dropped by 10% from 2016 to 2019, suicides among cultivators saw a steady decline from 2016 to 2018 but registered a marginal increase of 3.4% in the last year. Suicides among farm labour, though, have steadily declined from 5,109 in 2016 to 4,324 in 2019.
In the 2017 and 2018 data released by the NCRB, there are no detailed data on state-wise suicides by farmers. In fact, the 2018 report has presented state-wise data for 2008.
The state-wise data for 2019 show that Maharashtra continues to lead with over 3,900 farm sector suicides, of which 2,680 (65%) are of cultivators and the rest farm labour. This is followed by Karnataka (1,992), Andhra Pradesh (1,029), Madhya Pradesh (541), Telangana (499) and new entrant in the list Punjab (302).
The data for Madhya Pradesh show that majority of farm sector suicides were of farm labour and not of cultivators. Of 541 farm sector suicides in MP, only 142 were cultivators. This is not true of any state in the top six.