A potentially “politically-damaging” report on farmer suicides in Punjab will now be released only after the election results on March 11.
The state government had commissioned three state universities — Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana; Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar and Punjabi University, Patiala — to study cases of farmer suicides between April 2010 and March 2013. The three had earlier examined cases from 2000 to 2010 for compensation and had put the figure of suicides by farmers and landless labourers at 6,926, of which more than half (3,954) were farmers. The average per year was 692 and it had pegged the highest number of suicides in Sangrur, followed by Mansa and Bathinda.
The PAU, which is examining cases in the six worst-hit districts of Sangrur, Mansa, Bathinda, Barnala, Ludhiana and Moga, says the average has gone up in the new study. “Though the report of the three universities is yet to be compiled, the average number of suicides per year has gone up,” says senior economist Sukhpal Singh, who is heading the PAU study and coordinating with the other two universities.
With both main opposition parties, Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), making farm suicides a poll issue and promising a debt waiver, the report, which according to the three universities was to be completed by November last year, has been delayed by elections. But the PAU says some more cases are being examined and the report will be released by March third week.
The new report would also raise questions on the conflicting government estimates on farm suicides, both by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the Union agriculture ministry.