rnin    o io     onomi ss es     21.19
     Once the number of suicides by farmers increased            fArm income
     to the alarming levels, indebtedness among the
                                                                 The situation of farmers’ income remains highly
     community re-entered into the domain of the
                                                                 distressed in the country, as per the latest NSSO
     public debate. Today, considered as the biggest             report (cited above). An agricultural household
     cause of suicides by farmers, the government                has been defined in by it as a household receiving
     policies related to farm sector need re-examination         value of produce of more than Rs 3,000 from
     and the very framework of agri-policy needs                 agriculture with at least one member self-employed
     restructuring.10                                            in farming. Interestingly, it shows that for 56 per
                                                                 cent of the marginal land owning families (with
     fArm inDebteDness                                           land less than 0.01 hectare) wage and salary
     For farmers’ suicides, bankruptcy and indebtedness          employment, not agriculture, was their principal
     have been cited as a major cause—around 37 per              source of income. Another 23 per cent reported
     cent of all suicides by the farmers today. Usually,         livestock as their principal source of income.
     local money-lenders were portrayed as the villain                Average monthly income per agricultural
     in it. But as per the latest National Crime Records         household was estimated at Rs 6,426 while the
     Bureau (NCRB), 2015 data, 80 per cent of the                net receipt from farm business (cultivation and
     farmers who committed suicides in 2015 due                  farming of animals) accounted for 60 per cent
     to ‘bankruptcy or debts’ had borrowed money                 of the average monthly income per agricultural
     from institutional sources (banks and registered            household. Income from wages and salary
     microfinance institutions). Besides, the country            accounted for nearly 32 per cent of the average
     has seen a threefold increase in the famers’                monthly income.
     suicide due to bankruptcy and indebtedness                       About 44 per cent of the estimated agricultural
     (from 1163 of 2014 to 3097 in 2015). In 2015,               households in the country had an employment
     a total of 8007 farmers committed suicides due              guarantee scheme or MGNREGA job card.
     to various reasons. It was for the first time that          However, only 38 per cent in the lowest land class
     the NCRB categorised farmers’ suicides due                  (less than 0.01 hectare) had job cards. Further,
     to debt or bankruptcy based on the source of                12 per cent of all households and 13 per cent
     loans. Similar findings come from the latest                marginal land holding households did not have a
     ‘Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural                ration card that entitles them to subsidised food.
     Households in India’ report of the NSSO too.
     Nearly 52 per cent of agricultural households in            institutionAl AnD non-institutionAl loAns
     India are indebted and levels of debt are as high as        There was a perception that except non-farm
     93 per cent in Andhra Pradesh and 89 per cent in            factors it was overall agrarian distress that forced
     Telangana, as per the report.                               farmers to suicides. Even if some suicides were
             The changed understanding about farm                caused by indebtedness, it was due to the high-
     suicides make at least one thing clear that by              handedness and exploitative behaviour of the local
     allocating more funds to enhance farm loans is not          money-lenders on whom farmers largely depend
     enough.                                                     for their loans. The official feeling was that once
                                                                 the spread of institutional lending gets healthier
       10.   The write-up is primarily based on the Economic     this problem will be addressed. But the latest
             Survey 2016-17 and 2015-16 together with the latest
             NCRB report (2015), the latest NSSO report (2014)   data tell a completely different story—majority of
             and other releases of the Government of India.      farmers who committed suicides had taken loans