It took three-long-years for the government to release the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data of 2016 on farmers’ suicide. The data reveals a total of 11,379 suicides related to farming in India for the year 2016. The data which was released on 8 November under the Accidental Deaths and Suicides (ADSI) report of 2016, under NCRB shows a sharp decline in numbers from the previous year of 2015. A total of 12,602 farmers had committed suicide in the 2015 report. This time, however, the NCRB has not released information for the cause of farmer suicides.

Source: Reuters

What does the NCRB data on Farmers’ suicide reveal?

According to the report. 11,379 persons, which consist of farmers/cultivators, and Agricultural laborers have committed suicides during 2016, accounting for 8.7% of 1,31,008 total suicides victims in the country. Comparing the data with the previous year, the farmers’ suicide numbers have declined sharply from previous years but the number of suicides by the agricultural laborers has increased by 11%.

Source: Reuters

Out of 11,379 suicides, 6,270 were committed by farmers/cultivators of which 5,995 were male and 275 were female. Out of 5,109 suicides committed by agricultural laborers during 2016, 4,476 were male and 633 were female.

Maharashtra retains the top-spot

The agrarian distress in the state had failed to make it to the discussions of the ruling party before elections as BJP stressed its campaign on Bharat Ratna for V D Savarkar and scrapping of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. Farmer suicides in Maharashtra have nearly doubled in the past four years of the BJP-led central government in both Centre and the state.

PM Modi during the election campaign in Maharashtra, Source: PTI

Despite a 20 percent dip from the previous year (2015) report, Maharashtra continues to account for the highest number of farmer suicides in the country with 3,661 in 2016. The state witnessed almost 40 percent of all farmer suicides in the country. It had recorded the highest number of farmer suicides i.e. 4921 in 2015. Karnataka with 1,212 suicides was second on the list (almost 50% lesser than Maharashtra).

The NCRB had not released the data on farmers’ suicides along with the delayed data crime on October 21, the day of voting in the Maharashtra Assembly elections.

A Farmer in Maharashtra, Source: AFP

Surprisingly, suicides in Telangana have more than halved. In 2014 and 2015 the number of farmer suicides in the state stood at 1,347 and 1,400 respectively. West Bengal and Bihar had no cases of Farmers’ suicide at all.

What’s lacking in the NCRB report of 2016?

There are some major points that are missing from this year’s data on Framers’ suicide. In its previous reports, the NCRB had included reasons behind the suicides under categories such as loans, farm distress, crop failure, family problems, illness, etc. The report also included data on the socio-economic status and land-holding of each victim but the reasons are not clearly mentioned this time even after a delay of three years.

Source: Reuters

The numbers are expected to be much more than what is shown in the data. Women constitute nearly 65 percent of all agricultural workers.  74% of the rural workforce is female. The government does not recognize farmers to those who do not have a claim to land under their names in official records. Despite the lifetime involvement in farming, there are only 12% of women who own land. 

Source: Reuters

So, whenever a suicide of women involved in agriculture takes place, it is very likely that it is not registered as farmers’ suicide. As many as 87% of women do not own their land and they are labeled ‘cultivators’, who operate on agricultural land. They are not officially ‘farmers’ for the government. As a result, most women in agriculture cannot avail of government schemes meant for farmers. They cannot access institutional credit for farming or get subsidies.

What happened to NCRB data of 2017 and 2018?

As the world is about to enter 2020, the NCRB reports of the year 2017 and 2018 have not been made public yet. Functioning under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, NCRB was consistent with the reporting of farmer suicides from 1995 to 2015 in the annual report of Accidental Deaths and Suicides (ADSI) for the whole country. According to an RTI report, the data for 2017 and 2018 is not with the Bureau as yet.

The 2017 NCRB data was supposed to show the repercussions of Demonetisation, (announced on 8 November 2016), caused a major impact on the agriculture and farming sector.

What happened to the NCRB data on Lynchings and Religious killings?

Source: PTI

Not just Farmers’ suicide, the NCRB released its latest data on crime incidents across the country, more than a year behind schedule on November 11. According to a report, 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 have not been published, resulting in a partial delay of the agency’s report for 2017.