The seriousness of the state government towards keeping a track of farmers’ suicides can be gauged from the fact that it either does not have a consolidated data of the same or is trying to provide the information only in bits and pieces to fudge figures. Nawanshahr-based RTI activist had sought information from the office of the Additional Chief Secretary (Revenue) seeking data of the incidents of suicide of farmers and farm labourers from 1995 till now. The Addition CS (Revenue) forwarded the information request to the Rehabilitation and Disaster Management Department, which only provided details of the policies and instead suggested that the information be sought from the DCs of each district.
“No copies of the surveys conducted by Panjab University, Chandigarh, Punjabi University, Patiala, and Guru Nanak Dev University were handed out,” activist Parwinder Singh Kitna said.As efforts were made to collect the data from each district, four districts, including Sangrur, Bathinda, Fazilka and Kapurthala, did not provide the requisite information. Instead of the data of 20 years as sought in the application, figures from variable dates were provided. For instance, the figure of 64 suicides in Amritsar provided by the DC office dates from 2000 onwards instead of 1995 as sought in the application. The Barnala DC office has provided a figure of 147 suicides from April 2013 onwards, which includes 86 farm labourers and 61 farmers. Barring four districts, the total suicide cases in Punjab come to 2,632, with nearly half of them i.e. 1,334 in Mansa alone.
Ludhiana has reported a figure of 638. A new district, Pathankot, has reported nil. In another report from the office of Commissioner (Revenue) culled through the RTI, the figures of farmers’ suicides between 2000 and 2011 stand at 2,944 which, after addition of cases of farmer labourers, goes up to 4,687. On compensation, a letter dated January 4, 2013 mentions that Rs 28.86 crore had been released as Rs 1 lakh compensation to the families of 2,886 farmers who committed suicide prior to April 2013. Later, however, they were paid up Rs 1 lakh more. It also mentions that the compensation post July 22, 2015 had been raised to Rs 3 lakh each. A perusal of the documents also shows a copy of order dated October 19, 2015, received from the Rehabilitation Department which reads it had been decided that the universities would conduct a survey of farmer suicides only up to March 31, 2013, instead of up to July 22, 2015, as had been decided earlier.
Some facts from replies by DCsThe Moga administration received as many as 108 applications for seeking compensation for farmers’ suicides from April 1, 2013, to July 22, 2015, but only seven cases were approved. Kin of two farmers in Ferozepur could not be compensated as they were unwed. The report of DC, Faridkot, mentions that as many as 18 farmers had committed suicide at Aulakh village alone. There have been 12 such incidents in Jeonwala village of the same district.