A census to keep tab on farmers suicides in Punjab

Written by Swarleen Kaur | Chandigarh, May 30 | Updated: Jun 1 2008, 05:26am hrs
Acknowledging the need of having census on farm suicides, Punjab has finally thought of conducting a survey in the state. The state government has asked the economics and sociology departments of Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) to initiate the study to ascertain the exact number of suicides committed by farmers.

Talking to the FE, chief secretary of Punjab, Ramesh Inder Singh said, Intitally the survey will be conducted in Sangrur and Bathinda on pilot basis. If the study gets successful then it will extended to the other districts as well. Then our course of action will depend on the findings of the survey. We can also think of sending the study to the central government and state can also pitch in to support the aggrieved families.

Sharing more information on the subject, Sukhpal Singh, a teacher at of the department of economics and a member of the team, which will carry out the survey stated that initially, a door-to-door survey will be carried out in the 576 villages of Sangrur of the total 12,000 villages of the state.

Sangrur and Bathinda being a cotton belt, are considered the worst affected areas. Many farmers had committed suicides in the belt due to failure of the cotton crop. The aim of the study is to ascertain the reasons behind the suicides. The study will help us to estimate the exact number of distressed families, Singh said.

He further said, We will commence our work from the second week of June and it is expected the assessment in these two districts will see completion in four months. Farmers suicides that have occurred after April 1, 2005, will be taken into account and suicides of farm labourers have not been included in this census. However the census will help the government frame policy in the favour of farmers.

Sukhpal added that as per the available data procured from various deputy commissioners and police departments since 2002, around 141 farmers have committed suicides.

National president of Bharitiya Kisan Union, Bhupinder Singh Mann said the main reason behind the suicides is inability of repaying the heavy loan. According to the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data, farm households in India have an average outstanding loan of Rs 1,258, but in Punjab, the average outstanding loan is Rs 41,576 (December 2003). The cost of production has gone high and the central government has failed to duly compensate the farmers. However consisting census is the first step but a lot need to be done to improve the living standard of farmers, he said.