Punjab to frame policy on farm suicides

Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 12
Punjab — famed as the granary of the country — continues to be troubled by suicides in the agriculture sector.

The latest to join the victims was one Jugraj Singh of Hassanpur village near Budhlada in Mansa district. His brother, who is admitted to a hospital at Mansa, also made an attempt to end his life. Thirteen years ago, their father had died in the same manner. There are so many similar stories.

Not sure how to deal with the problem, the Punjab Government has set up a committee to frame a policy to deal with the issue. The state government was directed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to come out with a concrete policy framework to tackle suicides in the farm sector.

Largely, small farmers owning land up to 5 acres and farm labourers have been committing suicide in the state. Debt and economic stress, besides mounting social spending, are the main reasons for it.

“I hope the committee will be ready with a policy draft by the end of August,” said Kahan Singh Pannu, Secretary, Agriculture, Punjab.

“I have already started studying the policies framed by the other state governments such as Andhra Pradesh in this regard,” said Pannu, who is heading the committee. Other members of the committee will be taken from the Punjab Farmers Commission and the PAU, Ludhiana. The committee will talk with the Movement Against State Repression (MASR) and various farmer organisations before finalising the draft. In 10 years (2000-10), as many as 6,926 farmers and farm labourers committed suicides in the state.

This has been documented by three universities — Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar — which have been officially engaged by the state government to gather data and to study the problem.

Of the total number of suicide cases tabulated by the three universities, 3,954 were farmers and 2,972 were farm labourers. Of them, 2,943 farmers committed suicide due to debt.

Besides debt, economic stress was main reason for suicides in case of farm labourers. “The number of labour days has come down drastically in the villages. Out of 365 days, labourers in rural areas get work only for 129 days on average. MNREGA has not been implemented effectively in the state,” said Prof Sukhpal Singh, who headed the PAU study team.

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