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On farmer deaths, MP minister says suicides are a global problem

New Delhi: In a statement with all the ingredients for inviting criticism, a Madhya Pradesh minister appeared to downplay farmer deaths in his state by saying that suicides are committed the world over and are not limited to farmers alone.

Although Union agriculture minister Purushottam Rupala – on March 20 – had informed Lok Sabha that there was a 21 percent rise in farmer suicides in MP, state minister Balkrishna Patidar said reasons behind suicides can only be guessed, not known with surety. “Who doesn’t commit suicide? Businessman commits suicide, Police commissioner too commits suicide. This is a global problem,” he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI. “The reason for suicides is known only to he who commits suicide. We can only make guesses.”

While suicides are indeed a global phenomena, farmer suicides in India – in particular – has been a matter of national concern and debate. Political parties have accused each other of ignoring the needs of farmers – leaving them no alternative but to kill themselves. Little wonder then that manifestos before elections offer countless incentives to farmers in a bid to woo them. Plans do not often see the light of day – regardless of which political party is in power.

Interestingly though, data between 2014 and 2016 reveal that farmer suicides have seen a decline. This was also one of the highlights of Rupala’s address to Lok Sabha earlier this month. With several states waving off loans given to farmers, there has been relief to an extent. However, protest movements like the one in Maharashtra last month in which 35,000 farmers walked to Mumbai, continue to paint a grim picture.

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