46 farmers commit suicide everyday in India. That makes it one farmer suicide in every 32 minutes
296,438 farmers committed suicide between 1995 and 2013
18,241 farmers killed themselves in 2004 – highest till date
26 percent increase in farmers’ suicide in 2014 over previous year
If the numbers are scary, here’s something to take note of. The number of those who don’t get into official statistics could be much higher. Experts believe the already alarming situation in the agrarian sector could get worse if the government bulldozes its way to pass its land bill which has done away with the social impact assessment clause among other clauses provided in the UPA II’s land Act.
“The BJP during its election campaigns quoted the Swaminathan Committee’s recommendations and projected itself as the messiah of the farmers. But after coming to power it has taken a somersault. Their justification was that several projects were held up as land couldn’t be acquired. But they couldn’t come up with a single example whereby using Land Acquisition Act 2013, land couldn’t be acquired for a project. The BJP’s repeated attempts to push their land bill obstinately, gives an impression that they have abandoned the promises they made to the farmers in their manifesto and now they are working in favour of the corporates and for FDI,” said Sompal Shastri, agriculture expert and former agriculture minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government.
“The latest example of misuse of its power is in Haryana, where the BJP has formed government for the first time. It immediately changed the compensation payment pattern from four times of the circle rate to only twice. The BJP gradually reflects an anti-farmer stand,” Shastri, former chairman, National Agriculture Commission, said.
It’s not just from the opposition, but from within the family that the NDA government faced resistance against re-promulgation of the ordinance. The Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), an RSS-affiliated farmers’ body raised strong objection to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move.
The BKS had written to the Centre registering a strong objection and asked the latter not to amend the 2013 Act. Prior to the Union Budget, the general secretary of BKS, Prabhakar Kelkar had told Firstpost, “We’re strongly opposed to the removal of the social impact assessment of industrial corridors. We fail to understand why government should procure land from farmers for multi-specialty hospitals and public schools. There’s 52.5 percent agricultural land and the rest is barren land. The government should make land bank out of hectares of barren land available in every state. Why fertile farm land, with enriched black soil should be given to industries?”
The farmers’ bodies are of the opinion that if the amended form of the bill gets passed and implemented, the cases of farmers committing suicide would increase manifold.
“Drunk on power, the arrogance of the BJP is getting reflected by the way they are repeatedly trying to push the ordinance. Over three lakh farmers have committed suicide and these conservative figures don’t include women, landless and tenant farmers. All have chosen not to hit at the root of the problem– the neo-liberal policies. The Congress and the BJP have competed to implement them. The AAP has also refused to identify them as a problem responsible for the current state of Indian agriculture. A charade is being enacted and in the most inhuman manner,” alleged Vijoo Krishnan, joint secretary, All India Kisan Sabha.
He added, “If the NDA government succeeds in getting the ordinance passed, it would lead to severe unemployment, economic distress, extreme social tension and more number of farmers would be compelled to commit suicide, as they would lose their landholding – their only means of livelihood.”
Delhi Grameen Samaj president, Col (retd) RS Balhara remarked, “Agriculture is still the primary source of employment in India. Acquiring farm land to set up industries would result in bringing down the production of food grains, which will jeopardize the lives of farmers and our economy. We had moved the Supreme Court challenging the re-promulgation of the ordinance and on its basis the apex court has sought explanation from the Centre. The NDA’s draconian ordinance would cause more harm to farmers than in the past.”