HYDERABAD: For the kind of pro-farmer image that the State governments assiduously projected for themselves and their affirmed goal of not allowing any farmer to take his life by adopting saturation concept of providing relief, this should come as a shocker.
A decade-long correlation of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data on farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh with the statistics furnished by the State government to an RTI applicant, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, not only shows gross under-reporting by the latter but denial of relief by classifying the tragedy as genuine and non-genuine.
During the decade 1998-2008, the NCRB, an authentic source of suicides by those ‘self-employed in farming/agriculture', reported that 22,182 farmers were forced to take the extreme step. But a compilation of the State's statistics for the period shows the number as 7,683 suicides or just 34.6 per cent of the NCRB figure. The NCRB is yet to collect data for 2009 and 2010.
There is no cogent explanation forthcoming from official sources on such a wide difference except a routine elaboration on how the State machinery meticulously gathers details and verifies the suicides thoroughly by a three-member committee of Revenue Divisional Officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police and Assistant Director of Agriculture. Whatever the methodology, the disparity exposes the attempt to play down the gravity, show a steady decline and take credit for effectively tackling the problem. Surprisingly, the variation remains, though the NCRB relies on data furnished by the State police!
What adds insult to injury, however, is the State's glaring attempt to even deny ex gratia to the unfortunate victims of mostly State policies or lack of timely intervention by categorising the tragedy. Of the 7,683 suicides recorded by it for the decade, only 4,657 were treated as genuine and eligible for relief which meant 21 per cent of the NCRB's total or 60.6 per cent of those reported by the State itself. Another interesting aspect of the 1998-2008 NCRB data is the steady rise in the number of suicides after 2004 when a slew of pro-active farmer-friendly measures, including providing ex gratia were initiated by then Chief Minister, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy. While the farmer suicides ranged from 1,509 to 1,974 during the period 1998- 2003, it varied from 1,797 to 2,666 in the later years (2004 to 2008).
But comparatively and quite expectedly, all through the decade the number of suicides reported by the State for the two periods was dismal, given its propensity. The number ranged from 153 to 457 between 1998 and 2003 and from 729 to 2048 in the latter period indicating a better reporting phase. The State's reporting record of 2,048 came closest to the NCRB figure of 2,666 in the year 2004. Some consolation.