Congress Party’s Claim about Farmers' Income Is Incorrect
Of four claims, FactChecker found two to be true, one to be false and one needed additional context
On March 12, 2023, the Indian National Congress (INC) shared a video on its Twitter page highlighting the hardships faced by farmers under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. The video had several claims about farmer debt, monthly income of farmers and cases of suicide among agricultural labourers and farmers.
On verifying the claims against official data, FactChecker found two of these claims to be true, one to be false and one needed additional context.
Claim #1: Farmers in India have a debt of Rs 17 lakh crore
Farmers in India have a debt of Rs 16.8 lakh crore, according to a July 2021 reply in the Lok Sabha by Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat Karad. This was based on data from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). In March 2023, the Minister informed the Lok Sabha that the Union government had not introduced any loan waiver scheme for farmers.
As per the National Statistical Office's (NSO) Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households and Land and Livestock Holdings of Households in Rural India (SAS) 2019 survey, the percentage of agricultural households in debt decreased slightly from 52% in the 2013 survey to 50.2% in 2019. The average outstanding loan increased by 58% to approximately Rs 74,000.
Claim #2: 5,536 agricultural labourers died by suicide in 2021
The National Crime Record Bureau’s (NCRB) annual Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) report defines an ‘agricultural labourer’ as a person who primarily works in the farming sector (agriculture or horticulture) whose main source of income is from agricultural labour activities.
A total of 5,563 agricultural labourers (92% men and 8% women) died by suicide in 2021, not 5,536 as claimed, indicating a possible mix-up of figures in the claim.
Claim #3: The national average monthly income of an agricultural household is Rs 6,426, which means that a farmer earns only Rs 214 per day
The Union government had constituted an Inter-ministerial Committee in April 2016 to examine issues relating to "Doubling of Farmers Income" (DFI) and recommend strategies to achieve the same.
Based on the SAS 2019 survey, the national average monthly income per agricultural household, taking into account all sources (income from wages, income from leasing out of land, net receipt from crop production, net receipt from farming of animals and net receipt from non-farm business), was estimated to be Rs 10,218, which means that a farmer earns Rs 336 per day.
This indicates that there has been a 59% increase in farm income since the 2013 survey, when the national average was Rs 6,426, the figure cited in the INC’s tweet.
FactChecker had reported in August 2022 that the cost of cultivation has increased by 35% and the share of cultivation has declined in the income of agricultural households.
Claim #4: There has been a 29% rise in the suicide rate of farmers in 2021 in comparison to 2019
The NCRB reports do not record the suicide rate of farmers. The claim seems to have mistaken agricultural labourers as farmers, and it conflated the percentage increase in suicide cases among agricultural labourers with the suicide rate among farmers.
5,563 agricultural labourers died by suicide in 2021, a 29% increase from 4,324 (87% men and 13% women) suicides in 2019. 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. In 2021, 5,318 suicides of ‘cultivators/farmers’ were recorded, a decrease of 10.7% from 5,957 cases in 2019.
FactChecker reached out to INC’s office and Supriya Shrinate, chairperson of INC’s Social Media and Digital Platforms, via phone and email, but did not receive a response by the time of publishing. Additionally, we reached out to Abhas Bhatnagar, National Coordinator of INC's Social Media and Digital Platforms, who re-directed us to Poorva Sharma, National Coordinator of INC's Social Media and Digital Platforms, who redirected us back to Shrinate. The story will be updated when we receive a response.