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NCRB report shows farm suicides on rise: Why more farm labourers ending lives than farmers after Covid | Pune News


Between 2018 and 2022, India saw a steady increase in farm suicides, barring 2019, when there was a decline. In the two years after the Covid-19 pandemic, suicides by agricultural labourers far outnumbered those by farmers. These are some of the findings from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report published on Monday.

The report showed that in 2022, India saw 11,290 suicides in the farming sector, a 3.75 per cent rise from the 10,881 suicides reported in 2021. Of these victims in 2022, 5,207 were farmers and 6,083 were agricultural labourers. In 2021, the corresponding numbers were 5,318 farmers and 5,563 farm labourers.

The trend of more farm labourer suicides than farmer suicides began only after 2020. Of the 10,677 farm suicides in 2020, 5,579 were of farmers, and 5,098 were of agricultural labourers.

Similarly, in 2019, the only year when farm suicides reported a dip, 5,957 farmers and 4,324 agricultural labourers ended their lives. The corresponding numbers in 2018 were 5,763 farmer suicides and 4,586 farm labourer suicides.

Farm suicides as per NCRB report

The NCRB report does not specify its definition of farmers and agricultural labourers. Operational holding is used to differentiate between marginal, small, medium and large labourers. Farmers with land holding up to 1 hectare (2.5 acres) are termed marginal farmers, while small farmers hold between 1-2 hectares.

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India’s agricultural census of 2015-16 showed that 68.5 per cent of the holdings were by marginal farmers while 17.6 per cent were by small-holders. The rest was divided between medium and large holders.

Farm leader and former MP Raju Shetti said marginal farmers have too little land to make agriculture mainstream, and they fear their smallholding being infringed upon if left unattended.

“Agriculture labourers are drawn mostly from this category. They work on others’ land as well as cultivate their own land. It is this sector who have faced the most economic hardship post Covid,” he said.

The majority of them, Shetti said, were working as unskilled labourers in the urban sector. “Covid led to a large-scale reverse migration, and many of them decided to stay back,” he said.

Input costs have also increased several times, with output costs declining. “Overall, agriculture has become unsustainable for farmers, and the most suffering are the marginal farmers – who also act as labourers on the field. The increase in suicide can be attributed to these factors,” he said.

Farm suicide constitutes around 7-8 per cent of the total suicides reported in the country. Maharashtra reports around 37-38 per cent of the entire farm suicides in the country, with better reporting in the state being said to be one of the reasons for the high numbers. Vidharbha and Marathwada district report most of the suicides in the state.

 





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