ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Death in the Midst of Plenty

Farmer Suicides in Punjab

There remain misconceptions regarding farmer suicides. There is a need to set right these erroneous ideas based on scientific studies that have been conducted seeking to devise solutions to address the prevailing crisis of the peasantry in Punjab.

Punjab has shown unprecedented growth in the production and productivity of wheat and paddy, and has emerged as the largest contributor to the central pool of foodgrains. Despite being a benchmark of agricultural growth during the green revolution since the mid-1960s, agriculture in Punjab in particular is undergoing a phase of declining farm profitability and increasing indebtedness. The intensity of the agrarian crisis is such that the Government of Punjab recently formulated two committees, namely, the Vidhan Sabha Committee on rural suicides under the chairmanship of Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, and the Debt Waiver Committee under the chairmanship of T Haque.

The existing situation is quite grave as the farmers are burdened by about ₹ 80,000 crore (2016–17). The magnitude and seriousness of the farm crisis can be gauged from the fact that 6,926 farmers and agricultural labourers committed suicide in the state during 2000–10 as per the census-based study commissioned by the Government of Punjab (GoP 2011). Among the victim farmers, about 79% were small farmers cultivating up to two hectares of land. The high debt burden was the primary reason behind 75% of farmer suicides. According to a report of seven districts in the state, the debt-related suicide cases have increased at an alarming rate of 90.23% during 2010–16 (Vasudeva 2017: 7). Surprisingly, still some people attribute this scenario of suicide cases to socio-psychological behaviour of the affected farmers, conveniently ignoring the economic maladies to which these victims have been exposed.

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Updated On : 10th Jan, 2021
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