Govt, NGO suicide figures don’t match

27 Jun 2007, 0237 hrs IST, Ramaninder K Bhatia,TNN

CHANDIGARH: In another indication of the lackadaisical manner of treating farm crisis in the state, the government on Tuesday claimed that merely 11 farmers had committed suicide in Punjab since January 1, 2007.

Moreover, within few days of coming to power, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had claimed at a press conference that his government had decided to give compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of such farmers. But on Tuesday the government replied that a compensation policy was still being worked out.

The figures of 11 deaths were supplied by the home department in reply to an unstarred question asked by Independent MLA from Nihalsinglwala, Ajit Singh Shaant. The reply was given by home department on the basis of record supplied by the police, according to principal secretary home Dr BC Gupta.

Interestingly, even the revenue department is making its own survey of the farm suicide figures by entrusting jobs to deputy commissioners and it is learnt that their figures again differ from those supplied by the home department.

Inderjit Singh Jaijee, convener of The Movement Against State Repression – an NGO which has been highlighting the farm crisis time and again at various fora – is the first one to question these figures. “Our organisation has recorded nearly 21 suicides during this period in Moonak subdivision alone. I wonder why the state is bent upon down playing these figures,” he said.

The analysts have been despairing over the way crisis is being handled by the successive governments, particularly their ‘aversion’ to order a proper survey about the farm deaths. “There is a feeling in the government that more suicides are indicative of the state’s inability to handle the crisis, and in turn, a blot on the government’s face. But, then, farm crisis is a reality and there are many factors other than just bad government policies, to be blamed. Rather, it is now time to project the right picture to the Centre to get help on the lines of farm packages given to the southern states,” a senior government official associated with the exercise, pointed out.

In a recent communication to the President, Jaijee gave details of the survey conducted by his late daughter Aman Sidhu and also quoted government officials to show wide variations in the suicide figures collected by government agencies and the NGOs.

“Figures collected by the state police show only seven suicides in the past five years, while those given by DCs show 132 suicides. NGOs like ours and IDC show these numbers to be running in thousands. The government should at least get an authentic survey done by an independent agency if it is serious about addressing the problem,” he said.

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