#1. April 27, 2015: NDTV reports the ninth suicide by a farmer within a week. In Rajasthan.
#2. There has been no farmer suicides in Rajasthan in 2014, says the National Crime Records Bureau. Which is remarkable: Till 2013, the state reported an average of 414 farmer suicides each year. In December 2013, Vasundhara Raje took office as Chief Minister following her party’s triumph in the state elections. Presto, in 2014, not a single farmer suicide is recorded in the state.
#3. Which is not to say farmers didn’t commit suicide in the state — the startling new number was arrived at by the simple expedient of changing labels. From the same Indian Express report:
Before this year, farmer suicides were to be found under the “Self Employed (farming/agriculture)” category in the NCRB’s Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India data sheet. This year, the NCRB created a separate farmer suicide category, which resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of farmer suicides across the country leading to 12 states and 6 Union Territories reporting zero farmer suicides. This include large states with huge agricultural economies like Rajasthan, West Bengal and Bihar.
In the latest NCRB data, farmer suicides have been clubbed under Self Employed (Agriculture) category. Under this, Rajasthan has reported 373 farmer suicides, all of whom strangely were ‘agricultural labourers’. If this figure were to be taken as representing farmer suicides — since all other entries pertaining to farmers report zero — then Rajasthan would have seen quite a steep surge of 22 percent in farmer suicides.
#4. Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh tells Parliament that family problems, illness, drugs, dowry, impotence and love affairs are among the prime causes of farmer suicides. Um.
#5. The BJP in a statement blames the media. Farmer suicides have come down during the BJP’s term in office and this ‘fact’ is not being reported properly, says the statement.
#5. Speaking of reporting facts, here:
A total of 5,650 farmers committed suicide in 2014, with the maximum deaths reported from Maharashtra, Telangana and Chhattisgarh, official data revealed.
According to “Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India 2014” report released by the bureau, of the 5,650 farmers who committed suicide, 5,178 were men and 472 were women.
“The highest incidents of 2,568 suicides of farmers were in Maharashtra (45.5 per cent), followed by 898 suicides in Telangana (15.9 per cent) and 826 in Madhya Pradesh (14.6 per cent),” the data revealed.
“Telangana reported the maximum cases of female farmers’ suicides at 31.1 per cent followed closely by Madhya Pradesh (29.2 per cent), and Maharashtra (14.1 per cent),” it added.
Bankruptcy/indebtedness and family problems were major causes behind the suicides, accounting for 20.6 per cent and 20.1 per cent of the deaths respectively. Other causes included crop failure (16.8 per cent) and illness (13.2 per cent).
#6. Having ticked off the ‘blame the media’ box, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (who has been spending so much time during the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament defending his Cabinet colleagues, he might as well add Defence to his portfolio) proceeds to tick off another box in the playlist: Whataboutery.
What about the similar responses the UPA government gave, he asks. The tone-deaf nature of the response does not appear to have registered: It is precisely because the UPA government was perceived to have failed on various fronts that the BJP was given an overwhelming mandate. Thus, ‘we haven’t said or done anything you haven’t’ is not a response you really want to go with.
Net net, we have farmers committing suicide in unabated numbers on the one hand, and a political pie fight on the other. Meanwhile, this month, 16 farmers killed themselves in Karnataka; elsewhere in Maharashtra, a ‘task force’ has been created to examine the issue. You want irony? Listen to panel chief Kishore Tiwari:
“There have been many committees, appointed by the Central and state governments, on farmer suicides, but their recommendations were somehow never implemented.”
See? We have formed panels in the past, no one did anything, so we must do something now. Idea! We will form a panel.
Since we are in a positively Shakespearian mood this morning, here:
As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods
They kill us for their sport
(Lead image courtesy this Indian Express story)