Gagan K Teja
Tribune News Service
Patiala, November 9
A report released by Punjabi University shows that the agrarian crisis in the state has more impact on farm labourers.
As per the study, conducted by the Centre for Research in Economic Change, Punjabi University, in seven districts — Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Hoshiarpur, Patiala, Rupnagar, SAS Nagar and Muktsar – as many as 737 farmers and farm labourers committed suicide between 2000 and March 31, 2013.
It states that the number of landless agricultural labourers committing suicide is higher than that of the farmers. Of 737 suicides, 340 (46.13 per cent) were farmers and the remaining 397 (53.87 per cent) were labourers. Further, 683 (92.67 per cent) were males and 54 (7.33 per cent) females.
Importantly, out of the total suicides of both farmers and labourers, 90.23 per cent (665) took place due to debt and the remaining 9.77 per cent (72) for other reasons. And, out of 340 cases of farmers’ suicides, 124 were by marginal farmers (36.47 per cent), 97 by small (28.53 per cent), 62 semi-medium (18.24 per cent) and the remaining by medium and large farmers.
Among the seven districts, Muktsar registered the highest number of suicides (57.8 per cent), followed by Patiala (25.78 per cent), Faridkot (9.91 per cent) and SAS Nagar (2.44 per cent). The study revealed that an average farm household and agricultural labour household were indebted to the extent of Rs 5.76 lakh and Rs. 1.15 lakh, respectively, at the time of suicide. Farmers took huge debt almost equally from the formal and informal sources, whereas labourers got loans mainly from informal sources.
The study titled “Farmers and Agricultural Labourers Suicides in Seven Districts of Punjab” was sponsored by the state government and carried out by a university team headed by Prof Inderjeet Singh and Prof Sukhwinder Singh over a period of two years.
It revealed that the education level of the victims was very low. Most of them belonged to younger and middle-age groups. Further, an overwhelming majority adopted a painful method to end their life either by consuming poisonous substance or hanging. A few jumped in the canals or before the train, bus or truck.
Prof Sukhwinder Singh alleged that the rising suicides were the outcome of faulty economic policies pursued in the past. In fact, stagnation in yield of major crops, rising input costs, crop failures, no appreciable increase in output prices etc, had squeezed the income of farmers, he said.
He said the team had suggested measures for the rehabilitation of victim families such as liberal compensation, free quality education to their wards, waiving loans, covering families under social security schemes etc. The long-term suggestions included diversification of crops by adopting the procurement policy by the state, more funds for agriculture research, promotion of non-farm employment in rural areas, creation of Punjab rural development authority, change in land lease policy, capping of interest rates, supply of quality inputs, rejuvenation of cooperative system, crop insurance, etc.
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