43,000 Farmers, Daily Wagers Died by Suicide. Is There Place for Them on TV Debates About Sushant & Rhea?

Social Commentary

43,000 Farmers, Daily Wagers Died by Suicide. Is There Place for Them on TV Debates About Sushant & Rhea?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

As TV news channels continue to find ways to pin Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death on Rhea Chakarborty for the third month in a row, a number of important stories have been left by the wayside. In between the rising coronavirus cases and the falling GDP, the Indian broadcast media will have you believe that all the country cares about is justice for suicide victims.

On Thursday, however, another important headline related to this very issue was notably given a miss by most of the national news channels. As many as 43,000 farmers and daily wagers are said to have taken their own lives by suicide in 2019, a year before the pandemic put lives and livelihoods on hold for nearly six months.

According to data released by the National Crime Records Bureau, more than 32,000 cases of suicide were linked back to daily wage labourers in 2019, which is about 2,000 more than the numbers recorded in 2018. These incidents make up for 23.4 per cent of all suicide cases in the country.

In the farming sector, too, the numbers were alarming, with over 10,000 people employed in the sector said to have taken their own lives last year. A majority of these cases were reported in Maharashtra, followed by Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana.

The data also reveals that the overall number of suicides reported in the country had spiked when compared to similar figures from 2018, with daily wagers and housewives most affected by this particular pandemic.

The only silver lining in all these daunting numbers is, as The Indian Express points out, that there has been a steady decline in suicides reported in the farm sector since 2015, when successive droughts had led to a huge spike in fatalities.

The data also reveals that some states in the country, including West Bengal, Bihar, and Odisha had reported “zero” deaths by suicide in the agriculture sector.

Still news channels don’t think these numbers are headline-worthy. Hopefully, as the CBI continues to investigate the tragic death of Sushant Singh Rajput, our prime time anchors will take some time out to talk about other issues plaguing the country.