Bhubaneswar: Only days after pocketing the Krishi Karman Award in Agriculture, big revelation from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2018 report on Accidents and Suicides in India is, Odisha draws a neat big 'zero' in farmer suicides in 2018.
As per NCRB report, Odisha is among the few bigger states, including Mamata-led West Bengal and Nitish-led Bihar, where agriculture is still the prime mover of economy, to show zero farmers' suicides in 2018. In the three states, not even a farm labourer has committed suicide, let aside suicide by cultivators.
Nationally, Maharashtra topped the farmer suicides tally in the country and is followed by Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and UP.
The import of the list here is all the states have been known in India as farmer suicide-prone region in the country. Odisha has also been clubbed in the dubious list. Though the same group of states had reported farmers suicides in 2018 again, Odisha is the only state with zero farmer suicides.
Now, consider this. State Agriculture Minister Arun Sahoo recently tabled statistics on farmers suicides over the years in Odisha Assembly. Sahoo then drew lot of flaks for placing a statement where it is stated that a farmer had committed suicide due to family members’ ‘boredom’.
The tabled statement stated 38 farmers had committed suicide between 2016-17 and 2018-19. While 16 farmers had cut short their lives in 2016-17, 20 resorted to this extreme step in 2017-18 and only 2 in 2018-19.
The data tabled in State Assembly shows farmers suicides in Odisha in year 2018 ( as it tabled death toll in 2017-18 and 2018-19).
What's surprising then is NCRB data showed not a single farmer or a farm labourer by profession had committed suicide in Odisha in 2018. Since NCRB data is based on Odisha Police data. The data dichotomy over State police and Agri Min data tells a bigger tale.
Now, sample the facts to draw inferences.
*Agriculture Minister in State Assembly said Odisha government is yet to arrive at any conclusion in almost 80 per cent of cases even after three years, as post-mortem reports are still under scrutiny.
*In almost 100 per cent cases, Agriculture Department used the word ‘May’ to say, “The unnatural death ‘may’ not be due to crop loss or burden or the death ‘may’ be due to family dispute, personal reason or other reason (not specified) and, even, may be due to ‘boredom’.”
Take this single instance. Farmer Manoranjan Sahu committed suicide in March 2017, Minister replied that the investigation is yet to be completed. This is not a single instance. In almost 80-85 per cent cases, the reply of the minister says the inquiry of post-mortem report is still on.
The semantics of the Minister's statement and inordinate delay in completing investigation in such open and shut suicide cases throw not only a poor light on the governance but also points to a grave pattern, where the government is in denial mode on farmer suicides in the State. And NCRB report is evident to it. For which, eminent people had said, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.