In Focus

Published: Tuesday 30 June 1998

The Punjab government has ordered a probe into a series of suicides by small and marginal farmers and landless workers in Sangrur district of the state. This decision was taken by Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal after a Chandigarh-based human rights group, Movement Against State Repression (MASR), found that nearly 100 farmers in the Lehra block of Sangrur district had committed suicide in the past four years. These farmers were facing acute poverty and indebtedness.

MASR convenor Inderjit Singh Jaiyjee has written to the Punjab's chief minister about his findings. He has asked the government to take immediate measures, including crop insurance for the farmers besides providing compensation to the family members of the victims. Meanwhile, Baljit Singh, the co-convenor of the MASR, has reported that in the past one month, seven more farmers had committed suicides in Sangrur district.

Down To Earth had recently reported that several cotton farmers in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh, committed suicides when their entire standing cotton crops were devastated.

The measure crop failure pushed these people on the brink of starvation and forced them to take such extreme steps. Most of these farmers were not able to repay debt. Many such cases have been reported this year in different parts of the country that clearly show the poor state of farmers in India (Down To Earth, Vol 6, No 19).

A study conducted by H S Shergill, professor of economics in the Punjab University, concludes that rural indebtedness is a serious problem in Punjab. Whereas the reports of Jaiypee and Baljit Kaur have indicate that suicides by farmers are also taking place in other parts of the state. They think that nearly 6,000 suicides by farmers have taken place in diffe-rent parts of Punjab during the last four years.

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