36Garh Suicide Figures Fudged? 4 farmers commit suicide every day.

36Garh Suicide Figures Fudged?

4 farmers commit suicide every day.


Shubhranshu Choudhary

A city dweller like me has very little understanding of Farming and Farmers. But dreams for a region's future need to include the issue related to the livelihoods of more than 80% of the people of that region.

Which is why the first session of the annual Dream CG Meet, a gathering of memebers of the CGnet group, is about Agriculture. This year we thought of inviting some farmers from the adjoining Vidarbha region to learn from their experiences and apply the same to Chhattisgarh. Thousands of farmers are known to be committing suicides and we wanted to be forewarned and fore armed.

We contacted Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Andolan, and the farmer leader Vijay Jawandiya. They have been monitoring the issue of farmers' suicides and mailing journalists regularly to keep the attention of the media on the subject. Along with P. Sainath, they have made significant contribution in drawing world attention to the farmer's suicides in Vidarbha.

I also got in touch with Professor P Radhakrishnan of Madras Institute of Development Studies. He has a substantial body of work with him, on the Farmers' Suicides. He introduced me to Professor K. Nagraj who said, “It is true that Maharashtra has the biggest problem of Farmers' Suicides and you should invite the people of Vidarbha, but it is more important to initiate a study in Chhattisgarh. A large number of farmers are committing suicide in Chhattisgarh.”

It was the last week of December and Professor Nagraj was proceeding for his annual vacation. I think I was sceptical about what he said with reference to Chhattisgarh. I recalled a study conducted by one of my friends. According to this study, from the year of formation of Chhattisgarh till 2006, only 5 or 6 farmers have committed suicide- which meant one suicide per year.

Both Vijay Janwadiya and Kishor Tiwari could not attend the Dream Chhattisgarh meet. Many issues related to agriculture were discussed but the specific lessons which could be drawn on from the Vidarbh experience could not be considered.

A news article published some time back quoted the annual report of The National Crime Records Bureau ( 2006) which claimed that though Maharashtra continues to lead in the matter of Farmers' Suicides, but the combined figure for Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh ranks second. I was shocked.

The report further elaborated that in the year 2006 ( the figures for 2007 shall be available only next year) a total of 17,060 Farmers' suicides were reported, of which the maximum ie 4453 were from Maharashtra . The second rank was held by Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for which the figure was 2858. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were next with 2607 and 1720 Farmers' suicides reported in 2006. According to the same report, the figures for Andhra Pradesh have risen a little over the previous year, and in Karnataka they have gone down.

I was surprised, and confused. According to my information, the number of farmers committing suicide in Chhattisgarh was very small (1 per year) in the last 6-7 years. Which meant that Madhya Pradesh figures ought to have been significantly large. However I was not aware of Madhya Pradesh being in the lime light for Farmers' suicides.

The first question on my mind was, Chhattisgarh State was created 7 years back. Why are the Chhattisgarh figures still clubbed with those of Madhya Pradesh? If Chhattisgarh farmers are not committing suicide then what is behind maligning the name of this State?

Subsequently I found an article by Sushmita Malwiya on one of the websites. Sushmita also quoted combined figures for Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In the same report, the Agriculture officer for Chhattisgarh has been thus quoted- “ We have no record of Farmers' suicides with us. We have not received this report, but the figures are baseless”

I was getting really confused now. I contacted the editor of the newspaper “ Chhattisgarh'. He told me- “ The entire Chhattisgarh is not Dantewada that thousands of farmers will commit suicide here, and no one will write about it in the media”

I wondered why the Prime Minister, in his package of 17000 crores for the Farmers who committed suicide, did not declare a package for farmers of Madhya Pradesh, if the figures of farmers' suicide in Madhya Pradesh was indeed higher than that of Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala?

I called up many journalists in Madhya Pradesh. They said that they did recall reports of Farmers' suicides, but when the government disputed the figures quoted, the issue went into cold storage.

Then I called up P. Sainath, who is the editor for rural matters with the newspaper “Hindu”. Mr Sainath said, “ I have been writing about Farmers' suicides from the year 2000. For a long time, I was ridiculed. In 2004, after Chandra Babu Naidu lost the elections, people started taking me seriously in Andhra Pradesh. But even then people of Vidarbh would say that this was happening only in Andhra Pradesh and not in Vidarbha. But the official figures show that from the nineties decade, twice as many farmers are committing suicide in Vidarbha as compared to Andhra Pradesh.

I told him that the journalists in Chhattisgarh are doubtful about the authenticity of the figures. Mr Sainath queried, “Which newspaper in Chhattisgarh publishes the farmer's news? Does any news paper appoint a reporter for covering Agricultural issues? What all can I do singly? Where all can I visit? I have not been able to travel out of Vidarbha for the past many years. I will try and go to Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh after April. This subject needs to be researched and written about”

In the meantime, Prof K. Nagaraj had returned from his vacation. In response to my first question, he said, “ The figures of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are not clubbed. But my own study began in 1997, when the State had not been created. And so, for my personal convenience I club the figures of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The journalists just quote me, they do not explore the source of my figures. But you are wrong in thinking that all the suicides are happening in Madhya Pradesh. In the last few years, more farmers have committed suicide in Chhattisgarh than in Madhya Pradesh. According to the figures of 2006, the figures for Farmers' suicides for Madhya Pradesh are 1375, and for Chhattisgarh the figure is 1483”

Mr Nagraj said, “ The figures for Chhattisgarh shocked me initially, I used to think that as farmers migrate from Chhattisgarh in the same way that they do from UP and Bihar, the number of farmers committing suicide would be small. But if you are claiming that the figures are fudged, then the figures for all the States are also fudged. Because the source for all figures is common. To the extent I understand the issue, these figures are probably less than the reality. eg a farmer who commits suicide but who does not have land registered in his name, would not be included here. The real figure for farmers' suicides is likely to be higher in reality”.

I contacted the National Crimes Records Bureau for the figures of Farmers' suicide in Chhattisgarh, and they gave me the figures ( see box) . The officers told me to contact the Chhattisgarh State police department if I doubted their figures- as these figures are actually conveyed by the State to the Centre.

P Sainath says, “ Not only the journalists, but the activists are also responsible for the silence on the issue of farmers' Suicide in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.”

This is the election year for both states. Will some body speak up now?

Farmers' suicides in Chhattisgarh

2001 : 1452

2002 : 1238

2003 : 1066

2004 : 1395

2005 : 1412

2006 : 1483

source- National Crime Records Bureau of the Central Home Ministry