The National Crime Records Bureau informed Sunday that 5,650 farmers had committed suicide in 2014 – corresponding to an average of 15 every hour. While this sounds shocking, other sources say this is an underestimation.
This information comes at a bad time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the Indian Congress will open its new parliamentary session Tuesday that will debate the controversial bill reforming land acquisition. The reform aims at removing from a previous bill voted in 2013 a variety of safeguards preventing forcible acquisition.
Although the NCRB’s figures appear to show the number of suicides have halved since the same time last year, its methods were not the same. According to the Times of India, the government only took into account the landowners, instead of including all the rural workers.
The Times writes that when these are included, the real figure shoots up to 12,360 suicides over the past year, almost 600 more than the previous year.
In the most agrarian state in the country, Maharashtra, the record of suicides skyrocketed. The Hindu reports that over 10,000 were registered between 2012 and 2014. In this state, suicides do not only affect agriculture, but all sectors, with a total of 16,300 cases of people taking their own lives in 2014 alone, of 131,000 nationwide.
The reforms to the Land Acquisition Bill included the removal of various requirements, like the social impact assessment study and a limitation on return of land to affected families.
The Congress will be debating it again from Tuesday because “the government has been unable to convert the ordinance into a statute,” reported Scroll.in, “given the enormous political and social backlash.”