Five-fold rise in farmer protests in India since 2017, says CSE’s new statistical analysis

India now has more farm labourers than farmers – this is indicative of the sorry state Indian agriculture is slipping into  

New Delhi, June 7, 2021: Farmer protests in India have registered an almost five-fold increase since 2017. From 34 major protests across 15 states in 2017, the number has now gone up to 165 protests across 22 states and Union territories. 

Every day, over 28 farm labourers and cultivators commit suicide in our country. In 2019, there were 5,957 farmer suicides, along with an additional 4,324 farm labourers who died by suicide. 

Today, India has more farm labourers than farmers – in 52 per cent of the country’s districts, the population of farm labourers has outstripped that of farmers and cultivators. Bihar, Kerala and Puducherry have more farm labourers than farmers in all their districts. 

These statistics – brought to light in an e-publication released here on World Environment Day by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) – points to only one thing: India is sitting atop a massive time-bomb of agrarian crisis and disquiet, and the clock is ticking away. State of India’s Environment in Figures 2021, as the e-publication is titled, is an annual compendium of data and statistics on key issues of environment and development.  

Releasing the e-book, CSE director general Sunita Narain said: “There is drama in numbers, especially when these numbers give you a trend – are things getting better or worse. It is even more powerful when you can use the trend to understand the crisis, the challenge and the opportunity.” 

In the case of agriculture and land, things seem to be certainly on the downslide. “This is evident all the more when you see the condition of land records and their maintenance in the country,” says Richard Mahapatra, managing editor of Down To Earth. “Our analysis shows that 14 states in India have witnessed a deterioration in the quality of their land records.” 

Says Narain: “At a time and age when the quality of data available to us is usually poor – it is either missing, unavailable publicly or of questionable quality – a collection like this can be immensely helpful, especially for journalists. Improving the quality of data can only happen when we use it for policy. Take the case of the ongoing pandemic. Just consider how we have suffered in this past year because we do not have sufficient or accurate data on tests, or the number of deaths, or serological surveys, or genomic sequencing of the variants. In each case, data would have been (and is) critical for policy making.” 

She adds: “Data collection is important – it is part of the art of governance – but it is equally important that entire data sets are shared and worked upon so that they can be critiqued and through this process used and improved upon.” 

For data card/s and associated graphics related to the subject of LAND & AGRICULTURE: 

Find more such statistical gems in State of India’s Environment in Figures 2021. 

For a copy of the e-book, or for interviews, questions etc, please contact: Sukanya Nair of The CSE Media Resource Centre,, 8816818864.