The Congress on Tuesday held the policies of the ruling BJP dispensation responsible for farmers’ suicides in the country, claiming that one farmer died by suicide every hour.
Addressing a press conference in the wake of a September 17 suicide of Pune-based Dashrath Lakshman Kedari, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said the farmer, in his suicide note, held “the BJP government’s policies responsible for his death and noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was concerned only with himself”.
“Dashrath Lakshman Kedari in his suicide note said he did not have any money to pay back his loans and was ending his life due to helplessness. He sought reasonable MSP (Minimum Support Price) for farm produce as a farmers’ right and blamed the policies of the incumbent government for his decision to end life,” Shrinate said.
She said as many as 10,881 people involved in agriculture died by suicide in 2021, which was 6.6 per cent of 1,64,033 suicide deaths last year.
“This means, every day 30 farmers are dying by suicide and every hour more than one farmer is dying,” she said.
Citing the National Crime Records Bureau data, she said more than 53,881 farmers killed themselves between 2014 and 2021, which translates to 21 deaths daily.
Shrinate said it was ironic that 2022, the year by which the government had promised to double the income of farmers, was actually witnessing “barely Rs 27 average income” for them.
“Who is responsible for the dire straits of Indian farmers? The policies of this government,” the Congress leader said.
She also recalled the death of over 700 farmers during the year-long farmers’ agitation against the three agricultural reform laws to allege the “government’s apathy towards farmers and the farm sector”.
Further, she said the government’s remarks before the Supreme Court that payment of MSP over and above 50 per cent of the cost to farmers would distort the market, and that the Centre’s decision not to procure the produce if state governments bought them above the MSP clearly went against the farmers.
The Congress leader said the government had “looted the farmers” by increasing diesel prices, imposing a range of GST on farm products — five per cent on fertiliser; 18 per cent on insecticides, 12 per cent on farm equipment, and 18 per cent on tractors, “pushing the production cost to Rs 25,000 per hectare.” Quoting data from the National Sample Survey Organisation, Shrinate said the average daily earnings of farmers now stood at Rs 12 as against the average loan of Rs 74,000.
Seven states in the country account for 87.5% of the farming sector suicides. They are Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Maharashtra has the highest figures out of these states.
In 2012, Maharashtra alone accounted for 25% of the farmer suicides in the country. Suicides are not restricted to marginal farmers. Even small farmers are committing suicide.
Even the state of Punjab, which benefited most from the Green Revolution, has its share of farmer suicides. From 1995 to 2015, 4687 farmers were reported to have committed suicide in Punjab, with Mansa district reporting 1334 suicides.
There are several causes that lead to farmer suicides in India, the prominent among them being rise in input costs, loan distress, water crisis, climate change and lack of direct market integration.
There is no single method to reduce the burden on our farmers. The government, in consultation with various stakeholders, should come up with effective and long-term measures to reduce farmer indebtedness, improve crop yield, manage water resources efficiently and come up with alternate income sources for farmers.