Suicides by Farmers in Debt

Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, December 16, 2017

The rescue and revival project started by the Baba Nanak Educational Society to help the families, especially the wards, of farmers who committed suicide in Punjab in the past two decades, has got donors to support 50 families so far.

Certain parts of Sangrur district, especially Moonak belt, have witnessed a large number of cases of suicide by farmers in two decades. “In many cases, multiple suicides have taken place in the same family,” says Inderjit Singh Jaijee, former MLA and convener of the Movement Against State Repression, who is behind this project. “Deaths of a breadwinner under heavy debt plunges the entire family into poverty and in particular it makes women vulnerable to exploitation. Sending children to an orphanage traumatises the children and the mother,” Jaijee added.

“A better option is to enable the widow, children and aged parents to stay together in the supportive environment of the village. To achieve this the society runs the rescue and revival project to provide education to the children of suicide victims and subsistence to the family”, he said.

Vocational education was provided free of cost to girls. He said donors were introduced to the families in distress. At present about 50 families were receiving the support. Members of the society are Justice Ajit Singh Bains (retd), Dr Bhagat Singh, former vice-chancellor, Lt Col A.S. Grewal (retd), Gurpartap Singh, former chief commissioner (Income Tax), Baljit Kaur, Gursharan Singh Jaijee, former IPS officer. Lt-Gen Kartar Singh Gill (retd) is adviser of the society.

“We have been urging well-off people to spare money for people in distress in the countryside,” said Jaijee.

He said the most unfortunate aspect of the issue was the state government had not given any help to the dependents of farmers who ended lives under distress. “For seven years, we have been pressing the state government to extend help to the dependents of farmers who committed suicide, but the authorities concerned were not ready to do so,” said Jaijee.

He said the Movement Against State Repression had projected about 3,000 farmers commit suicide every year in the state and since 1988 over 40,000 farmers had ended lives. “Supported by affidavits of panchayats concerned, I have submitted a list of 1400 cases of suicide by farmers to the state government,” he said.

The Punjab government’s status report on this issue says 2,116 farmers had committed suicide since 1988 to 2004. The Punjab Farmers Commission had reported 2,000 farmers commit suicide in the state every year. The Punjab Revenue Department’s report says 132 farmers had committed suicides in five years. The Punjab Police report of 2007 says seven farmers committed suicide in seven years. So figures of suicide cases of farmers vary from agency to agency.

He said the union government was willing to concede suicides by farmers in the southern states, but not in Punjab or Haryana because Punjab had long been projected as “agriculture success story”. He said Punjab had been witnessing more cases of suicides than that of the southern states.

Jaijee said the increased threat perception to the state was not from so-called Naxalites and Maoists. “It was from rural misery due to unequal distribution of the nation’s wealth”, he added.

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