The government has no data on farmer suicides in the last three years, Agriculture Minister Radhamohan Singh has said in parliament. But it was his ministry that had in March placed in parliament provisional data on farmer suicides.
Around 11,300 farmers and farm labourers committed suicide in 2016, according to the data placed in parliament. It is a drop from 2015, when the number of such suicides was 12,602.
On Tuesday, the Agriculture Minister told parliament that his ministry did not have the data as the National Crime Records Bureau had not published a report on farmer suicides since 2016. He was responding to a question by Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi, who had asked whether the government planned to rehabilitate the families of farmers who had committed suicide in recent years.
"The NCRB under the Ministry of Home Affairs compiles and disseminates information on suicides... These reports on suicides are available up to 2015 on its website. The reports for the year 2016 onwards have not been published yet," the minister said in a written reply.
In 2015, the report reveals, over 8,000 farmers and over 4,500 agricultural labourers committed suicide. Since then, there have been several agitations by farmers - last year, five farmers were killed in police firing during a protest in Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur - but no official data on suicides.
"We were asked to make certain verifications," said a highly placed source, explaining the delay in publishing the NCRB report on farmer suicides. "We were also asked to give comparative figures for the last decade. All of this delayed the report."
Sources in the crime records bureau also confirmed that the 11,000 figure for the year 2016 has been conveyed to the Agriculture Ministry.
Opposition leaders have accused the government of trying to hide farmer suicide data to avoid a backlash in an election year. Dinesh Trivedi told NDTV: "How will the government give compensation?" Congress leader Ahmed Patel tweeted: "Can we please know the truth? Is the government ignorant about farmer suicide data or it is withholding the data?"