Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, New Delhi
Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana,India
 Sponsored by
Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, New Delhi
Research Content
Farmer Suicides in Punjab: Causes and Suggestions

The present study was under taken to study the causes leading to farmers’ suicides in Punjab and to recommend suitable policies to alleviate the incidence of farmers’ suicides. The study was confined exclusively to those farmers who are cultivating - either their own land or on lease basis - at the time of survey by taking a sample of 30 victim families. The number of farmers’suicides in Punjab, according to NCRB data, which was merely 26 in the year 2003 showed more than 3 fold increase and reached to an alarming level of 98 suicides per annum in 2014. Amongst the 30 respondents contacted from the victim households, all the suicide victims belonged to Sikh religion in which 97 per cent were from general category. The victims were largely concentrated in the age group of 31-60 years (about 73per cent). Majority of the victims (70%) were literate. Majority of the victims (73%) commited suicide by consuming poison. On an average, the existing family size of victims’ family was 4.53. Land holdings of the victims’ families shows that 33 per cent had marginal farm size, 27 per cent small farm size, 17 per cent medium farm size and 23 per cent had large farm size (more than 4 hectares). Overall, on an average, operational holding of the victims’ families was 6.64 acres. Out of which, 3.70 acres land was of their own, 3.11 acres leased in land and 0.17 acres land was leased out. Gross cropped area was 13.28 acres per household and the cropping intensity was 200 per cent. All the cultivated area had the irrigation facilities. Amongst the various sources of irrigation, about 33 per cent of area was irrigated through tubewell, about 9 per cent through canals and about 58 per cent area was irrigated through both tubewells and canals. The average annual income of the victims' families was about Rs. 194000 and the average annual expenditure of victims' families was to the tune of Rs. 125900. Total percent of expenditure to income was 64.85 per cent. Kharif season occupied two major crops i.e. paddy and cotton. Out of total households, 23 had cultivated paddy on 6.26 acre with yield of 26.51 qtl/acre. The per acre gross return from paddy was Rs. 38443 with the total variable cost of Rs. 12211. About 13 households had cultivated cotton on 5.30 acre with yield of 0.90 qtl/acre. The per acre gross return from cotton was Rs. 3376 with the total variable cost of Rs. 7190, which was due to decreased productivity of cotton in the region due to the attack of white fly. Further, wheat was the major rabi season crop in the study area grown on about 47 per cent of the total cropped area during the season. All the households had cultivated wheat on 6.22 acre with yield of 16.70 qtl/acre. The per acre gross return of wheat was Rs. 28601 with total variable cost of Rs. 9761. Amongst institutional sources of loans, it was observed that 37 per cent households had taken loan of Rs. 95000 from Co-operative society for the purpose of farming. About 57 per cent households had taken loan from commercial banks in which 94 per cent households had taken loan for farming purpose, which was of Rs. 4.33 lakhs/household and 11 per cent households had taken loan of Rs. 8.47 lakhs/household for non farming purpose. Amongst non institutional sources of loan, about 67 per cent respondents had taken loan from traders and commission agents for farming and non farming purposes. Before the suicide was attempted in the family, it was noticed that even though the victim was sufficiently mingling with the family, community and the neighbourhood but the sleep pattern of the victim was misaligned. There was also a change noticed in the food consumption of the victims, as they were found consuming less food than usual. As far as the social causes were concerned, the causes of suicides were largely attributed to the family problems and commitments (37 per cent) followed by poverty (30 per cent). In the farming related causes of the suicide, majority of respondents attributed the cause to failure of crop (43 per cent) followed by fall in expectations of higher output/price (40 per cent). However, a large majority of the respondents attributed the cause of the suicide to indebtedness with around 87 per cent of the respondents blaming the institutional and non-institutional sources of indebtedness. A suicide not only caused insecurity in the family but also in many cases led to stopping of agricultural activities. Also, in many cases a suicide robbed a family of an earning member which in turn had its consequences on the economic well-being of the family. Some land including other assets definitely was sold after a suicide happened in the family but the serious consequences of the suicide was its effect on other family members who has a tendency to slip into depression or fell seriously ill after witnessing a distressing incident in the family. To alleviate the incidence of farmers’ suicides in future, the increase in non-farm employment was the most important suggestion, opined by 63 per cent of the respondent households. Possibly engaging the labour in productive work rather than as disguised unemployed in agriculture would lessen the incidents of suicides in the farming sector. It was also believed that the regularization of non-institutional credit by the Government would help in lessening the incidents of the suicides. The victim families who have take loan from the institutional sources, the recovery of such loans should be delayed by one crop season and this should be treated as interest free period. The victim families who have taken loan from the non- institutional sources, these can be diverted to the institutional loan under the Debt Swap scheme of NABARD. Other suggestions put forward to prevent the suicides were increase in MSP for all the crops, crop insurance to overcome any unforeseen calamities, compensation for crop damage during a bad crop year or pest/disease attack, provision of education for the children of the farmers, crop diversification etc. Besides the monetary compensation, the Govt. should also adopt the suicide victim family to provide the benefits of various Govt. Schemes in the state on priority basis. The family may be considered eligible for the benefits of BPL families, Atta dal scheme, MNREGA, family medical insurance, widow pension, grant for marriage of the wards of victims, scholarship/grant for the education of children and various subsidy schemes of the state agriculture department. Such families may be associated with Self Help Groups formed by ATMA/KVK or some other Govt. Agency so that the family members may be provided with the trainings to promote subsidiary activities on the farms. A low rate Crop Insurance Program can be initiated for these families at the plot level whose premium may be paid 50% by farmer and 50% by government. The co-operative societies should provide the subsidy up to 50% on all the inputs sold by them.