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High Court notice to farmers on petition seeking counting of farm-suicides in Punjab

July 12, 2016 | By

Chandigarh: nsThe High Court was hearing a petition by Movement Against State Repression, a non-government organisation (NGO). In it’s petition MASR argued that: “[t]he present petition is to seek an accurate data of families where farmers committed suicide, so that the extent of rural indebtedness leading to the deaths is revealed”.

Petitioner’s counsel Rajwinder Singh Bains argued that the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) had ruled Punjab for more than two decades across various terms but never “acknowledged the unpleasant fact” or ordered a survey for the fear of social unrest. Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar; and Punjabi University, Patiala, got only Rs 30 lakh for the last survey.

Image used for representational purpose only

Image used for representational purpose only

The lack of credible data limited Punjab’s share of Rs 71,000-crore central assistance to rural-suicide states to 1.4% (Rs 994 crore). Another central package to the affected districts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala was almost Rs 17,000 crore. “Punjab was not considered because it didn’t have authentic data of farm suicides,” the petitioner told the court.

Even the collected data wasn’t reliable, as different agencies reported different figures. The three universities had put the number of suicides at almost 6,700 in ten years, while the Institute of Development and Communication, Chandigarh, counted almost 2,000 in 2001, Punjab State Farmers Commission 2,100 in 2005, Punjab Police seven over five years since 2008, and the Punjab revenue department 132 for five years since 2008.

The petitioner sought up to Rs 5 lakh as compensation for the affected families, submitting that Rs 2.5 lakh fixed in 2001 was reduced to Rs 2 lakh in 2012. It asked for more social schemes for the families.

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