On March 6, 2023, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath claimed that no farmer had died by suicide in the last six years. But, 398 farmers and 731 farm labourers died by suicide between 2017 and 2021 in the state, official data show.

“Sugarcane farmers in Uttar Pradesh were forced to burn their crops and attempt suicide but in the last six years, no farmer in Uttar Pradesh has died by suicide,” the UP CM claimed while flagging off 77 tractors for farm machinery banks set up in cooperative sugarcane and sugar mill societies in Lucknow.

This claim is false.

The Bharatiya Janata Party came into power in the state in March 2017 and was re-elected in 2022. Between 2017 and 2021, the year for which the latest data are available, Uttar Pradesh recorded 398 suicides of ‘cultivators/farmers’ (82% men and 18% women) and 731 suicides of ‘agricultural labourers’ (92% men and 8% women), as per data from the National Crime Record Bureau’s (NCRB) annual Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India reports.

The NCRB classifies suicides by ‘persons in the farming sector’ into farmers/cultivators and agricultural labourers. The report defines a farmer/cultivator as those whose profession is farming and includes those who cultivate their own land as well as those who cultivate on leased land/other’s land with or without the assistance of agricultural labourers. An ‘agricultural labourer’ is a person who primarily works in the farming sector (agriculture or horticulture) whose main source of income is from agricultural labour.

The NCRB report further classifies farmer suicides into farmers/cultivators who cultivate on their own land and those who cultivate on leased land. UP recorded 289 deaths by suicide of farmers/cultivators who cultivate on their own land and 109 deaths by suicide of those who cultivated on leased land.

The causes for farmer suicides are complex and are linked to economic, environmental and social issues. However, debt is one of the primary reasons for these cases, Kavitha Kuruganti, Co-Convenor of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture and the Kisan Swaraj Network, a volunteer network, told FactChecker. “There is also a social angle related to a sense of honour and dignity that farmers in rural India experience.”

“It is also about farming becoming a riskier individualised enterprise, where it used to be a communitarian way of living earlier. Liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation policies of governments have thrown farmers to the mercy of rigged capitalist markets, with hardly any support to farmers.”

Harassment by moneylenders for loan repayment, and crop loss, are also reasons for farmer suicides, said Dr Ashish Mital, General Secretary of the All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS). He added that crop insurance payments after crop loss do not come through in UP, and companies do not end up paying the insured amounts, despite a premium deducted from all those who have a Kisan Credit Card (KCC). “The state government escapes crop loss payments as loss is never assessed on losses on individual plots.”

FactChecker has reached out to the state government via email for clarification and comment on the above statement. The story will be updated once we get a response.

While an average of 79 farmer deaths by suicide were reported per year between 2017 and 2021, the state reported an 85% drop, from 87 cases in 2020 to 13 cases in 2021.

On the other hand, deaths by suicide of agricultural labourers have risen, from 85 cases in 2020 to 226 cases in 2021. In all, 731 labourers died by suicide between 2017 and 2021.

In 2015, IndiaSpend had reported how UP was hiding farmer deaths. Lack of medical certification of deaths, stigma associated with mental health, criminalisation and concerns about denial of insurance result in undercounting of suicides, IndiaSpend reported in 2022.

FactChecker reached out to Yogi Adityanath’s office via email and phone for clarification on the claim. We will update the story when we receive a response.