News article from TOI, 4th February, 2016
AHMEDABAD: When it comes of farmers suicides in Gujarat, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Union agriculture ministry and state government do not seem to be on the same page.
To an RTI query, the PMO stated that only one farmer ended his life due to crop failure in the state in one decade — between 2003 and 2012. In contrast to this, the state home department said the figure was 413, between 2005 and 2014. And to in complete contradiction of these figures, the minister of state (MoS) for agriculture, in the Rajya Sabha, said that more than 600 farmers committed suicide in Gujarat in 2013-14.
Mohan Kundaria, the MoS for agriculture, stated in the upper house of Parliament that 582 farmers committed suicide in 2013. While, 45 farmers and 555 farm labourers ended their lives in 2014. Kundaria, the parliamentarian from Rajkot, gave figures of farmers’ suicides in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state in response to a question by Rajya Sabha Congress MP Pravin Rashtrapal.
Last year, RTI activist Bharatsinh Jhala demanded details on farmer suicides in Gujarat from the PMO. The PMO had replied that only one farmer committed suicide due to crop failure in a decade. Zala believes the figure is wrong as he has himself compiled data on farmer suicides, which suggested the number is around one thousand. He asked for data on small and marginal farmers along with farm labourers.
Another city-based rights activist Sagar Rabari filed an RTI with the state police on the same issue. The police was considerably more generous than the PMO, as it stated that 413 farmers ended their lives from 2005 to 2014. Rabari said the authorities do provide proper replies to RTI applications. “With each RTI application, one can get a new figure. So there is a question over which number is correct,” Rabari said.