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Visual-Data India » Farmer Suicides in India: A visualization

Farmer Suicides in India: A visualization

Farmer suicides in India are always in the news or in other popular media like films. Much has been discussed about the number of suicides.

There are reports and news items dating back from the mid-1990s on farmer suicides. Here’s one news report on a study conducted by a Prof. K. Nagaraj. You could do a search to see that there are more than 150,000 items on the topic. There are films like Jhing Chik Jhing based on the topic. The government also talks about “relief measures” for the same.

So I decided to find out for myself, what the numbers actually were. I selected 2001 as a good year to start my data collation effort (though not much effort was involved). The National Crime Records Bureau has pretty comprehensive data (data that I will, at this point, trust).

Compiling the data was pretty easy, but when it came to the visualization, I tried several types of charts, including the basic column graphs and pie-charts. None were good enough. What was required, was a treemap.

So I went to Many Eyes, a site by IBM that helps in visualizing data. It allows you to upload the data and visualize it in multiple ways.

Farmer Suicides: A snapshot

Click on the image to view a larger version.

The data now looks like this. You can visit the page on Many Eyes here to see an interactive viz.

Some other observations

There have been a total of 120,395 suicides in the 8 year period from 2001-2008, which is nearly 15% of all suicides in this period.

Maharashtra consistently ranks at the top of the suicides list averaging 23% of all farmer suicides over the 8 year period.

22 states and union territories each contribute less than 1% on an average and a total of 4%.

5 states: Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh make up for nearly two-thirds of the suicides (64.33%).

You can also derive your own observations from the data. Some of data is available on Many Eyes as a dataset.

If you want the sorted data by year, as a spreadsheet, please leave a message in the comments section.


I tried an alternate view using suicide data as a percentage of total suicides in a state. The picture changes completely:

You can view the complete graphic here.

There is less of an imbalance when it comes to distribution now.

Farmer Suicide Rate

Another interesting fact: When it comes to suicides, the ratio of farmer suicides to the total farmer population is less than the ratio of total suicides to total population.
There is some work that needs to be done on the validation of the agricultural population.

The data sources include: National Crime Records Bureau, Register General of India, Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Dept. of Agriculture.

  • sankarshan

    The graphic that you’ve put up allows me to see the story in terms of the states which have had the most number of suicides. How would you like to present the data if you’d like the reader to configure and see the various facets of the story ? For example, if a reader wished to know how many farmer suicides in Maharashtra are tied to a range of tenure/loan amount etc. Does it make the story more powerful if the end reader is allowed to generate graphics ?

    • admin

      What you say is very relevant and exactly what I was working on before I put out this post. Unfortunately, that data available only for 2003. I might end up making a single graphic for 2003 alone, if more data isn’t found.
      The available NCRB data isn’t granular enough to find what percentage of farmer deaths were due to bankruptcy.
      Also, the data is now available for public use on Many Eyes. If one has comprehensive financial data, they can work out their own visualizations.

  • Hirak Parikh

    Excellent idea! Look forward to some beautiful and informative graphics.

  • Khadeamolt

    give sorted data of farmers suicides

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  • Priyedarshi Jetli

    In the last table the difference between non farmers suicide rate compared to farmers suicide rate is considerable.  Take 2008 for instance.  If farmers are 80% of the population then out of 109.21 suicide rate of the population farmers would constitute 58.05 of this (80% of 72.56), which means that non farmers would be 51.16, which would maker there rate at over 250.  Whatever the farmer population might be the non farmers then would have a much higher rate than farmers.  However, we must be careful in interpreting this.  There may be a vaiety of sociological reasons for non farmers to commit suicide that are missing in the case of farmers.  What we should really be interested in is a comparison of the rate of farmers committing suicide due to the inability of paying off debts to urban poor and midddli class doing the same and the urban rich, that is, industrialists, etc., doing the same.  My sense is that in this case the rate of farmers committing suicide is much higher than their urban counterparts. The reason to me is very simple.  The farmers feel a moral obligation to pay back their debts whereas the urbanites, especially the rich urbanites don’t feel this moral obligation an are happy to default. The sociologist Gideon long time ago wrote about the gangster mentality of all urbanites.

    These are the confessions of an urban gangster though a mere teacher

    P. Jetli

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