New Delhi: The pandemic year of 2020 saw more suicides among businesspeople in India, than even farmers, according to data released by the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB).
The latest Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India report, published by the NCRB, notes that 11,716 businesspersons died of suicide in 2020, a 29 per cent jump from 2019 when 9,052 businesspersons had died of the same cause.
Farmer suicides stood at 10,677 for 2020, which is around 1,039 cases fewer than that of businesspeople.
This is among the first instances of this happening. The NCRB data shows that between 2014 and 2019, farmer suicides outnumbered those by businesspersons by
At least 2,000-3,000 cases on average.
But the numbers for both categories have been increasing over the years.
In 2017, over 7,800 businessmen had killed themselves, a figure that rose to over 9,000 in 2019 and 11,700 in 2020.
In the same period, farmer suicides dropped from nearly 10,700 in 2017 to over 10,300 in 2018 and 2019 before again rising to the 10,700 mark in 2020 (see graph).
Who were these businessmen?
A detailed break-up of businessmen reveals that most of those dying of suicides were men (93 per cent) and were mostly vendors (36 per cent) and tradesmen (37 per cent), and belonged to highly developed states.
Karnataka recorded the maximum number (1,772) of businessperson suicides in 2020. It is a jump of 103 per cent from 2019 – when only 875 businesspersons had died of suicide in the state.
Following Karnataka, about 1,610 businesspersons died of suicide in Maharashtra (25 per cent jump) and 1,447 died in Tamil Nadu (36 per cent jump).
About 40 per cent of the total businessperson suicides were recorded in these three states alone.
The number of suicides by businesspersons, however, is far lower than that of the unemployed (15,652) and daily-wage earners (37,666).
Why the numbers?
While the NCRB doesn’t provide the cause-wise break-up of the suicide numbers, one chief factor is the pandemic.
The NCRB shows that in 2020, during the pandemic year, farmer suicides rose by three per cent while those of businesspersons by 29 per cent.
Experts believe that Covid hurt the non-agricultural sector more than agriculture this time.
“The major share of India’s businessperson community belongs to the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) who are extremely vulnerable to shocks and Covid has hurt them the most,” said Professor Praveen Jha of JNU’s Centre for Economic Studies and Planning.
“These small businessmen are not assured of support during the crisis and the government of India helped them with too little, and too late — that too mostly monetary in nature (in the form of loans) and not fiscal support (stimulus cheques),” Jha told ThePrint. “They had to undergo the most ill-thought out lockdown in the world in a short time. Lack of support system during the crisis could have pushed many of them to suicide,” Jha added.
According to Arun Kumar, economist and professor at the Institute of Social Sciences in Delhi, the revival of MSMEs post Covid lockdown had become extremely difficult as the demand from consumers shifted to the organised sector.
“When people stopped going to shops and markets and ordered everything online , it hurt the local shopkeepers,” Kumar said. “Most of these micro entities work on a very tiny capital; so, if they run out of work for a long duration, they are out of money very soon. Not earning money at all but still having to take care of the families pushes them to depression.”
Experts also believe that the after effects of demonetisation and the implementation of GST exacerbated during the pandemic.
In 2018 , two years after demonetisation and a year after the implementation of the GST, businesspersons suicide rose by three per cent. In the following year, businessperson suicides grew by 13 per cent compared.
“Our GDP doesn’t capture the trends in the unorganised sector, which has been on constant decline since demonetisation and the implementation of GST,” Prof Kumar said. “The small business community, which employs 94 per cent of the workforce, suffered the most and hadn’t completely revived from the pains of the two, when Covid landed,” Professor Kumar added.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)