NEW DELHI: How many farmers have committed suicide in Gujarat?Just one in ten years if the Prime Ministers Office is right, 5874 if the Aam Aadmi party is to be believed.

To drive home its ‘suicide free’ point perhaps the Gujarat government submitted a note and not an affidavit to the Supreme Court looking at the handling of the drought situation in the country. The court, thus admonished Gujarat with, “why have you not filed an affidavit? Don’t take things so lightly. Just because you are Gujarat doesn’t mean you can do whatever you like,” the court said. It has asked the state government to submit the document by Thursday.

The farmers, reeling under crop failure, bad debts, are now facing severe drought conditions across the country. The government, by its own figures, admitted to at least 33 crore farmers in 12 states being badly impacted by the scarcity of water. The government said that 256 districts are reeling under drought.

However, insofar as deaths because of crop failure are concerned, the government has been reticent insofar as Gujarat is concerned earlier. To an RTI query, the PMO had maintained that there was only one suicide in Gujarat because of crop failure between 2003 -2012.

The Gujarat state home department placed the figure as 413 between 2005-2014 according to media reports. And Minister of State, Agriculture Mohan Kundaria told the Rajya Sabha that over 600 farmers had died in Gujarat in just one year 2013-2014

According to Kundaria’s statistics 583 darmers had committed suicide in 2013, and 45 farmers as well as 555 farm labourers had killed themselves in 2014.

AAP has come out with the 5874 figure for the last ten years.

As a result the relief being sought by the farmer community in Gujarat is not forthcoming, according to organisations on the ground. As activists pointed out, if the problem is not recognised how can it be resolved. After all one death in ten years certainly does not merit war like measures to cope with agrarian distress, in fact it is not even counted as distress, the sources said. But if the figure runs into four digits, or even three, the situation is far more urgent and needs quick measures and immediate attention.

Meanwhile the government has assured the Supreme Court now that it will be taking drought relief measures, and will be releasing funds for the same. There have been reports from across that the MNREGA scheme of 150 days has been drastically reduced by the current government, in terms of work days allocated for the poor under this scheme. Activists have again pointed out that the farmers now looking at daily wages to survive, find themselves with not even 50-100 days of work as the funds have been reduced for the scheme, and the jobs are not being made available.

Farmers have been protesting in Gujarat over the land acquisition bill, scarcity of water, and crop failure that invariably leads to increasing debts for several years now. Farmer bodies include Gujarat as a state witnessing agrarian distress, but the government remains in denial mode, at least insofar as statistics are concerned.