Even as Punjab recorded a fall in average monthly farmer suicides barring one month in the current financial year, the state lost many to the protests against Centre’s controversial farm laws. While there were nearly 24 farm suicides a month in the state between April to December last year, the state witnessed 65 farmer deaths during 38 days (between November 26 to January 3) of the ongoing Delhi morcha. This is more than double the average monthly loss of life due to farm suicides in this financial year.
Protests take a toll
Since the last week of November, more farmer lives have been lost due to the protest than suicides.
“During farmers’ protest at Delhi border and in the state around 65 farmers from Punjab have died from November 26 to January 3 and over a dozen from other states,” said BKU Ekta (Dakunda) general secretary Jagmohan Singh. He added that young farmers in their 40s, even in their 20s are dying due to extreme cold and non-availability of on timely medical aid.
“These are pure murders because of the indifferent attitude of the government,” he said.
The details procured from the farmers’ organisations revealed that most of the farmers had died due to cardiac arrest and extreme cold while some lost lives in accidents while on the way to the protest site in the foggy weather.
According to various farm unions and farmer families, around 78 deaths have taken place during farmers’ protests out of which 76 were farmers from Punjab and elsewhere. These deaths took place from November 26 to date in the past 40 days at Singhu, Tikri, Gazipur borders as well as during the parallel farmers’ protests in Punjab.
Out of these 65 farmers were from Punjab, 10 from Haryana, two from Uttar Pradesh and one from Madhya Pradesh. Among Punjab farmers 13 died in road accidents either while returning from Tikri, Singhu borders or going to participate in the protest there, 10 had died from heart attack at both the borders and during Bharat bandh protest (December 8) in Punjab, 8 had fallen ill due to intense cold weather and died later at Singhu and Tikri border.
One was bitten by a poisoness inset, while another was burnt alive as car in which he was sleeping at Tikri Border as car the caught fire (he was a tractor mechanic and was supporting farmers’ protest since beginning by repairing their tractor trolleys free of cost). Another farmer committed suicide a day after returning Punjab from Delhi border where he had spent 15 days.
The cause of the death of 31 others from Punjab is yet not known and the farm unions are collecting details about that.
Among other states’ farmers, the cause of death of the 4 out of 13 is yet to be ascertained, while remaining nine had died due to cold while two committed suicide including one religious preacher from Haryana who was upset with the treatment meted out with the farmers.
Among the deceased, the age of 42 could be ascertained. Out of them, 25 were between 16 to 57 years of age and 17 were between the age group of 60 to 80 years.
Jagmohan Singh added that they have collected the list of 78 farmers and the cause of their deaths is also being established. He said that the government had forced farmers to come to Delhi in such an intense cold weather and then it did not allow them to enter Delhi and left them on the road.
27% fall in farmer suicides
In Punjab, meanwhile, there were 220 farmer suicides in 275 days (around 24 farmer suicides in a month) of the current financial year.
Dharminder Singh Pashour, block president of the Lehra Gaga unit of the BKU (Ugrahan) who keep a thorough record of farmer suicides in the state, said that this year there were only 16 suicides in the month of April, while15 farmers committed suicide from May 15 to June 20. In five months, from June 20 to October 19, only 93 farmers committed suicide pegging the monthly average at 18-19 farmer suicide every month in these five months. However from October 20 to November 19, as many as 73 farmers committed suicide in just 31 days, he said, adding that this was due to the reason that relaxation given by the government of paying the loan instalment was withdrawn and banks allegedly started putting pressure on the farmers to repay their loans,” he said, adding that from November 20 to December 31 in 51 days only 22 farmers committed suicide because every farmer of the state is busy in Delhi and state-level protests.
The records showed that from April to June, 2020, around 48 farmers had committed suicide in the state against 119 and 104 farm suicides in 2019 and 2018, respectively.
So from April to December 31, 2020, there was 27 per cent fall in farm suicides in Punjab as compared to previous years. Out of 9 months of the current FY, eight months witnessed just between 15 to 19 farm suicides against 30 to 36 suicides every month in previous years.
Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary, BKU (Ugrahan), said that farm suicides were less because of relaxation given to farmers for repayment of loans due to Covid-19. Banks and other financial establishments, however, adopted vigorous measures to realize their outstanding dues from the farmers in October and November months, which, in turn, put the farming community under financial and psychological pressure and they committed maximum suicides in this period in the last year.