Figures submitted to the state government on the number of farmer suicides raise more questions than answers.
The Karnataka state Agriculture Department recently submitted a report to the Chief Secretary on the number of farmer suicides in the state and the number of farmers to whom compensation has been provided.
From April 1 to October 3, a total of 516 farmers have killed themselves in the state, with suicides being reported from each district with Bengaluru Urban reporting the lowest: one.
According to figures from the department, four districts – Mandya (56), Haveri (44), Tumakuru (36) and Mysuru (33) have recorded the highest number of suicides.
Raichur, Belagavi, Gadag, Davangere, Chikmaglur and Hassan district fall in the second bracket with the number of suicides ranging betweem 20 and 30.
In the four districts with the highest suicides, government officials say that fewer suicides were recorded the previous year, but Haveri possibly had just a single-digit figure in 2014. The jump to second position in this year’s tally is simply inexplicable.
One thing that the district has in common with Mandya is that land-owning communities cultivate sugarcane – in Haveri it is the Lingayat community and Vokkaligas in Mandya. The two other main crops – cotton and maize – are largely grown by people belonging to backward communities – Dalits, OBCs and Muslims – many of whom own small plots of land.
On the surface, there appears to be another similarity between the two districts – an element of showiness – among certain sections of farmers, prompting them to take loans for farm equipment or other purposes. Thus, despite no actual crop loss, some farmers have killed themselves.
However, as with Mandya, no clear pattern is yet identifiable in Haveri.
In Bengaluru Urban one case has been reported and Uttara Kannada, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada, Kodagu and Chamarajnagar districts, single-digit figures have been recorded.
Compensation claims rejected
Of the total number of cases that local committees have considered, 42 percent of claims for compensation have been rejected. According to Kannada daily Prajavani, following perusal of 233 cases, the government had found that compensation could be given in 134 cases as the farmers’s conditions matched the government’s criteria. The remaining 99 claims for compensation had been rejected.
Commissioner for Agriculture Pandurang Nayak told The News Minute that committees headed by Assistant Commissioners (of the local district administration) would decide on the merits of individual cases.
Asked about reasons for the rejection of the some of the claims for compensation, Nayak said that this information was still at the district level and it had not been compiled yet. “Only if the state government asks, it will be compiled,” Nayak said.
When the National Crime Records Bureau released its report on Accidental Deaths and Suicides for 2014, farmers groups and activists in Karnataka had claimed that the government had fudged the numbers by shifting the numbers from one column to another.
There has been no attempt yet to systematically analyse the causes for farmer suicides across the state this year, and see if there is, indeed, any pattern that emerges.