Punjab goofs on farmer suicide figures

Ajay Bharadwaj
Thursday, March 06, 2008 23:52 IST

How many farmers killed themselves in the state since 2004?

CHANDIGARH: While the Punjab government has expressed its strong displeasure at the loan waiver announced in the Union budget, the fact is that it never prepared a formidable ground for debt relief for farmers. The number of farmers committing suicide due to heavy debts has been drastically varying from time to time.

In a communication to the Centre, the state government said that since 2004 only eight farmers had committed suicide due to overbearing burden of debt. A year earlier, the then Congress government had told the Centre that between 2004 and 2007 as many as 20 farmers ended their life.

This is contrary to the facts presented by the police and the revenue departments of the Punjab government. The police records put the number of farmers’ death to 72 between 2001 and 2007, where the revenue department computed the number of suicides as 126 in the same period. However, the then chief minister Amarinder Singh had informed the Vidhan Sabha that since 1988 the number of farmers committing suicide was 2,116.

The discrepancies in the official records apart, a Chandigarh-based NGO, Movement Against State Repression (MASR), has put the estimated number of suicides at 40,000.

Inderjit Singh Jaijee, convener of the MASR, said that a survey conducted in Andana and Lehra blocks in Sangrur district in the Malwa belt of the state revealed that 1,130 persons committed suicide in the two blocks since 1988. He said if in two blocks the suicide number stood at 1,130, in all the 138 blocks in the state the number would not be less than 40,000.

While officials have refuted the claims, the MASR offered to produce death certificates to testify the number quoted by him and said the government had always tried to play down the crisis, instead of making efforts to resolve the crisis.

The MASR proposes to file a PIL in the Punjab and Haryana high court seeking redressal for indebted farmers.

Source Link: http://www.dnaindia.com