‘Family Problems’ Behind Farmer Suicides, as Records are Fudged in Uttar Pradesh

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Lucknow:  At farmer Tilak Chand’s home in a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Jalaun district in Bundelkhand region, his family is holding prayers for his soul. On March 18, he was found hanging in his room, by his little niece.

His family says he lost more than half of his wheat crop in a hailstorm and had borrowed Rs. 35,000 from a local moneylender at a high interest rate.

“My granddaughter came to say uncle has hung himself, I ran to his house and found him dead,” said Tilak Chand’s father Kripal Singh.

For the district’s records, however, the 42-year-old farmer killed himself because he was an alcoholic and was fed up of family fights.

“Farmer suicides are not directly linked to poverty or natural calamity, there are various other reasons,” District Magistrate, Ram Ganesh Yadav told NDTV.

In fact, 24 deaths in Jalaun in March, a particularly bad month for farmers, have all been labelled either natural deaths or suicides over family problems in the report of the state administration. None of the suicides have been attributed to crop damage or “rural distress.”

Activists acknowledge that reasons for suicides can be contested, but say it is a common practice to fudge data to under-report farmer suicides, to keep the number minimal.

In 2013, 750 farmers in Uttar Pradesh killed themselves, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, which is more than double the number of suicides by unemployed persons. Farmers, according to the bureau figures, are the group most likely to commit suicide after housewives.

Uttar Pradesh does not have a clear compensation and rehabilitation policy for families of farmers who commit suicide, but amid nationwide concerns over extensive crop loss in parts of India due to unseasonal rain, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav announced relief for affected families.

A member of the state Planning Commission, Sudhir Panwar, said this could lead to social problems. “If we create such a policy for relief then it would mean that we are expecting them to commit suicide,” Mr Panwar said.

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