Some 5,563 agricultural labourers died by suicide in 2021, according to the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau
Agriculture was said to be the sole bright spot for India’s gross domestic product growth, clocking a positive growth rate when other sectors fell to the pandemic during the last two years. But the growth did not translate much for agricultural labourers as at least one agricultural labourer died by suicide every two hours in 2021.
Some 5,563 agricultural labourers died by suicide in 2021, according to the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The number of suicides increased by nine per cent from 2020 and by around 29 per cent from 2019.
Some 5,121 of the 5,563 suicides by agricultural labourers during 2021 were by males and 442 were by females.
The most suicides were reported from Maharashtra (1,424), followed by Karnataka (999) and Andhra Pradesh (584), according to the report Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India.
The data comes at a time when more farmers have become labourers and an average agricultural household depends more on wages than the farm.
This was prominently highlighted in the 77th round of the National Sample Survey, Land and Livestock Holdings of Households and Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households, released in 2021. According to the survey, the highest income for a farming household was Rs 4,063, which came from wages in return for serving as agricultural labour.
More agricultural labourers have died by suicide in the last two years. But fewer farmers / cultivators have done so. The number of such suicides declined to 5,318 in 2021 from 5,579 in 2020 and 5,957 in 2019.
These figures were also highest in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Overall, the number of suicides was lower for farmers / cultivators compared to agricultural labourers.
However, the number of suicides by farmers / cultivators in Maharashtra and Karnataka were higher compared to those by agricultural labourers — 2,640 and 1,170 respectively.
A total of 10,881 persons involved in the farming sector died by suicide during 2021, accounting for 6.6 per cent of total suicides victims (164,033) in the country.
Certain states / Union Territories like West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Tripura, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chandigarh, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry reported zero suicides of farmers / cultivators as well as agricultural labourers, according to the report.
The NCRB defines, a ‘farmer / cultivator’ as one whose profession is farming and include those who cultivate on their own land as well as those who cultivate on leased land / other’s land with or without the assistance of agricultural labourers.
‘Agricultural labourer’ is a person who primarily works in the farming sector (agriculture / horticulture) and whose main source of income is from agriculture labour activities.
Meanwhile, the share of daily wagers among those who died by suicide in the country has shown a sharp increase in 2021.
Daily wage earners accounted for 25 per cent suicides in the country (42,004 suicides), making daily wage earners the largest profession-wise group among suicide victims in 2021. The figure of 42,004 suicides is a sharp increase from 33,164 daily wagers who died by suicide in 2020.
The report said the figures of daily wage earners excluded agricultural labourers. But many daily wage earners worked as agricultural labourers too during the last two years, when many economic activities were shut and cities saw a reverse migration to villages. This is because they were out of any source of income.
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