In Andhra Pradesh, for example, Central government statistics point to 22000 farmer suicide-deaths in a 10-year period whereas the state has reported less than 40 per cent of that number. And hardly one in five such families got compensation. Because the rest of the deaths, the government says, don't qualify.
Narsamma's 36-year-old son committed suicide in 2005 after the only thing that grew on his three acres, was his debt of two lakh rupees. Eight borewells had failed. He drank pesticide. Unable to see her four children die a slow death, his wife Padma also chose death. And then Narsamma's ailing husband hanged himself. And yet this family in Medak district got no help.
"This government has not helped us. How can I look after the children. How long I can live? I will also die one day and then what would be the fate of these children? Who will take care of them?
"We were told that we will get compensation but we haven't received. I managed till today but our house collapsed and there is no house for us now. I am fighting for the help,'' said Narasamma.
RTI activist Rakesh Reddy has correlated data on farmer suicide deaths from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) with that reported by the Andhra Pradesh government.
* Between 1998 and 2008, the NCRB says over 22000 farmers killed themselves in AP whereas the government figure is less than 8000.
* Less than 4700 of those suicides were treated as genuine or eligible for compensation that means just 21% of the total suicides as per NCRB data
The Congress government points out that in the last five years, Minimum Support Prices (MSP) has gone up by 100 per cent, and Andhra Pradesh has been a major beneficiary of enhanced credit and debt waiver announced by the UPA government.
D.A.Somayajulu, Advisor, Government of Andhra Pradesh, said, "There is a tendency on the part of the people to classify every suicide as agricultural suicide, because they will get some benefits. Eventually, the local MLA, the local RDO, agricultural extension officer form a team. They go to the place the moment a suicide is reported to find out the truth, whether it is really for personal reasons or farm-related suicides. This scheme is only for farm-related suicides."
Chandrababu Naidu, during his tenure as the Chief Minister withdrew compensation to farmer suicide victim families because his government reasoned deaths due to other reasons were being classified as agriculture-related.
The Congress, then in opposition, had strongly criticised it. Ironically, now in power, the Congress is singing the same tune as Naidu.