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NCRB’s Silence On Farmer Suicides Is A Cause For Concern. Here’s Why

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For around three years in a row now, the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) has not disclosed the Accidental Death and Suicides in India (ADSI) report. Last published in 2015, the ADSI, which is an important source for data on farmer suicides in India, would have been a true indicator of development in rural India.

According to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), India currently has the highest suicide rate in South-East Asia. In the last ADSI report, it was reported that farmers’ suicides constitute 11.2% of all suicides in India. However, since 2014, there was an apparent dip in farmer’s suicide. For instance, in 2014 the share of farmers’ suicides in India dropped to 4.3 % as compared to 9% in 2013. This can be attributed to a change in the data-collection process of the NCRB, which started classifying these deaths of ‘tenant farmers’ under ‘agricultural workers’, instead of ‘farmer suicides’.

However, agricultural workers’ suicide have gone up in many states. This bifurcation of deaths might mislead the reader to believe that farmers’ suicides are reducing when actually, these deaths are speaking for themselves anyway about the agrarian crisis that India is going through.

The 2011 Census claimed that the ‘farm dropout’ rate is 2,040 every 24 hours. This means every day around 2,000 farmers give up agriculture as a livelihood and join other occupations. There are many profitable and even noble professions in the world for sure, but there is none other upon which all other occupations are dependent on more than a farmer’s. A person might be able to do away with the need of a mason, trader, driver, chartered accountant, teacher, or even a doctor for one day–but they certainly need a farmer three times a day so-as-to eat three meals a day.

A report by India Today TV says that that the Ministry of Home Affairs has been withholding the report deliberately even when the report for 2016 was submitted to the Ministry in April 2018. The news report goes on to state that “As per an affidavit submitted by the Union of India to the Supreme Court, provisional data on the farmers’ suicides was released which noted that 12,602 farmers had committed suicide in 2015 of which the highest was from Maharashtra.”

However, it looks like the BJP completely ignored that in the manifesto for the Maharashtra Assembly elections, and chose to focus the debates on the scrapping of Article 370 and granting Bharat Ratna to Hindu Mahasabha ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. But come to the next elections, strategic places farmers’ issues will be milked by politicians just like ganna (sugarcane) farmers in Uttar Pradesh were addressed by Prime Minister Modi just one day before elections in Kairana in 2018.

Farmers from Tamil Nadu protest with skulls at Jantar Mantar in 2017. Credit: Hindustan Times Via Getty Images

The BJP government might have won the 17th General Elections in India, but it still needs to pass the farmers’ test. Of late, the country has seen protests from the farming community growing in both frequency and intensity, demanding better conditions for farmers. Farmers have protested locally and at the centre with drastic methods to draw attention to their plight.

In the first tenure of the BJP government, Prime Minister Modi’s then-Cabinet Minister for Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh had dismissed these protests as ‘gimmicks‘ for media attention, while blaming the opposition Congress party for the farm distress, and also attributed dowry, impotency, and “failed love affairs” of farmers as reasons behind the suicides.

Today the spate of farmers’ suicide in India and mostly the failure of the state to publish its records only establish the fact more strongly that it’s not about jilted lovers or an opposition party which has been long-removed from power. It exposes the grand failure of the state to pay due attention to 60% of the population who are directly or indirectly engaged in agriculture.

The remedies still lie squarely in the executive’s domain, be it Minimum Support Price (MSP), compensation for crop failure or subsidised agricultural inputs. The landmark initiatives of Swaminathan Committee’s 2004 Report (SCR) need to be put into service as advised, and the fifteen year-long battle for its faithful implementation needs to come to a rest.

The Vajpayee government’s loss in the 2004 elections should be a reminder that angry farmers are still an indispensable voting bloc in India. While pro-framer promises continue to be part of political tall-talk, on the ground, they need to have more substance. The core issues of comprehensive cost, crop and credit system need to be addressed together to make sure that the farmers’ issue finds a panoramic solution.

Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program

Featured Image Credit: EDTimes
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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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