Nawanshahr: Though the Union government said in the Parliament on Tuesday that Punjab along with Maharashtra and Telangana states was topping the country in the matter of farmers’ suicides, the state government here has no credible data regarding these suicides.
As per RTI activist, Parvinder Singh Kittna, no survey with regard to such cases was undertaken in the state after 2011. Kittna here today said that under the RTI Act, he had sought information regarding the number of cases of suicides by the farmers in the state from January 1, 1995 till date from the Additional Chief Secretary (Revenue) and the deputy commissioners. He said that apart from compensation released to the affected families, he had also sought information on the policies (including amendments) regarding compensation to be given in such cases.
Copies of letters written to the deputy commissioners to curb such suicides was also sought under the Act, added Kittna who maintained that the response to his queries has placed the state government in the dock. Divulging details, Kittna said the Additional Chief Secretary (Revenue) asked the Revenue, Rehabilitation and Disaster Management department to reply to my queries which, in turn, though provided him the copies of the policies made between July 15, 2009 to July 23, 2015, did not provide him any information regarding the number of suicide cases in the state though such information existed in his office in the form of surveys undertaken by the three universities-Panjab University, Chandigarh, Punjabi University, Patiala and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.
Interestingly, as per the RTI activist, though Bathinda, Sangrur, Fazilka and Kapurthala districts failed to provide any information in the matter, the information provided by the deputy commissioners of other districts leave much to be desired. According to the information given by the respective DCs, only 64 farmers have committed suicides in Amritsar district, 147 in Barnala, 123 in Faridkot, 50 in Fatehgarh Sahib, 26 in Ferozepur, 36 in Gurdaspur district and 8 farmers each in Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur districts have committed suicides in the last 20 years, while 1334 farmers have committed suicides in the Mansa district, 638 lost their lives to suicides in Ludhiana district.
The figures pertaining to Moga, Muktsar, Patiala, Ropar, Mohali, SBS Nagar and Tarn Taran are 7, 16, 125, 5, 2, 4 and 39, respectively while no farmer reportedly took his life in the newly carved Pathankot district. As per this official information, the total number of farmers who committed suicides in the last 20 years in the state is 2632 (this does not include the four districts which failed to provide the requisite information). Kittna maintained that the copy of a letter of the Revenue, Rehabilitation and Disaster Management department dated 22.10.2014, made available by the office of a DC has nailed the state government and its administration with regard to the number of cases of farmers’ suicides in Punjab.
As per this letter, the Commissioner (Revenue) during a meeting of the CM with the representatives of farmers’ organizations held on September 11, 2012 had revealed that “as per the surveys undertaken by different universities, a total of 2944 farmers and 1743 farm labourers (total 4687) had committed suicides in the period ranging from 2000 to 2011 in Punjab.
Kittna lamented that though since 2012, hardly a day passes when there is no news of suicide by some farmer, the state government was not prepared to accept that majority of these suicides were related to debts of farmers. “In Moga district, only 7 of total 108 families who had applied for compensation between the period 1.4.2013 to 22.7.2015, were found to be eligible for the relief,” said Kittna while revealing that two families in the Ferozepur were denied compensation on the ground that the deceased were bachelors (unmarried). Kittna maintained though committing of suicides under any circumstances was a serious issue, failure of the state government to keep records in the matter was a grave issue in an agrarian state.
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