Mumbai: This was an important year for data, with the release of long-pending statistics on unemployment, crimes in India and farmer suicides. Data long withheld, when released, showed joblessness at a 45-year high of 6.1%; that 11,379 people engaged in farming had committed suicide in 2016; and that cases of crime against women had increased by 9% from 2015 to 2017.

Meanwhile, climate data showed a record number of extreme weather events such as severe heat waves, floods and cyclones. At the same time, there were widespread protests for land rights of tribal populations living in India’s forests. Here’s a look at 2019 in five infographics.

Climate change

In India, the July of 2019 was the hottest ever recorded, the summer monsoon saw 74% more extreme rainfall events, forest fires were 113% more numerous year-on-year and seven cyclones hit the country, IndiaSpend reported on December 18, 2019.

Because of extreme weather events, India was ranked the fifth most vulnerable to the effects of climate change among 181 countries. India’s overall ranking on the Global Climate Risk Index 2020 slipped nine points from 14th in 2017 to the 5th in 2018.

India would lose Rs 2.7 lakh crore or 0.36% per unit of its gross domestic product due to climate change, a report published by the Bonn-based think-tank Germanwatch said. India’s economic losses are the second highest in the world.

By 2040, 25 million Indians would be at risk of severe floods, a six-fold increase from 3.7 million facing this risk between 1971 and 2004. As carbon emissions increase, parts of India’s major cities including Mumbai, Surat, Chennai and Kolkata would be underwater or ravaged by recurring floods by 2050, IndiaSpend reported on October 31, 2019.

Around 600 million Indians are at risk from the fallout of a rise in global mean temperature. The world needs to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming, but emissions have increased at a rate of 1.5% per year in the last 10 years. Even if all countries fulfilled their commitments under the 2016 Paris agreement, temperatures could be expected to rise by 3-3.2°C this century, said the Emissions Gap Report released in November 2019.

Farm crisis

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released the Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India report for the year 2016 after a four-year gap. The report that was last published in 2015 provides nation-wide data on deaths from suicide and accidents, including traffic accidents, fire accidents, building collapse, etc.

Although the number of land-owning farmers who died by suicide reduced in 2016, more agricultural labourers killed themselves in 2016 than in 2015. In 2016, 6,270 farmers or cultivators and 5,109 labourers died by suicide; in 2015, the numbers were 8,007 and 4,595, respectively.

The 2019-20 budget allocated Rs 1.4 lakh crore to the agriculture ministry, a 141% rise from Rs 57,600 crore in the 2018-19 budget estimates. But the increased funding would not be enough to fight the ongoing agricultural crisis that has led to widespread farm agitations in India, IndiaSpend reported on February 12, 2019.

With global mean temperature set to increase by 3-3.2°C, the farm crisis is set to worsen. A 1°C rise in temperature reduces farmer incomes by 6.2% during the kharif (winter) season and 6% during rabi (monsoon) season in unirrigated districts, IndiaSpend reported on March 22, 2018.

Uneven rainfall and extreme weather events are also affecting crop yield. About 42% of India’s land area faced drought in April 2019, worsening the farm crisis. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, parts of the North-East, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telangana were the worst hit.

In districts along the Kaveri river basin in southern and interior Karnataka, 25% of the kharif crops were damaged because of this erratic rainfall. The farmers here had postponed the sowing of these crops to August because June and July, traditional sowing months, had received scanty rainfall. But torrential rains in August destroyed a quarter of the crops, both young and mature, IndiaSpend reported in April 2019.

Forest rights

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in September 2019, announced that India would raise its target for restoring degraded land from 21 million hectare to 26 million hectare by 2030. Of the 328.72 million hectares area of the country, around 96.4 million hectare (30%) or as much as the area of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra put together, is degraded.

Days before the announcement, the government had invited the private sector to participate in reclaiming land and thereby, “make money”, IndiaSpend reported on October 5, 2019. The involvement of private companies without involving local communities and legally recognising the communities’ tenurial rights over forest resources could fuel land conflicts, activists warned.

Of the 26 million hectares that the government promised to restore, 21 million hectare (81%) is forest land. Across India, 38 cases of land conflicts have been documented by Land Conflict Watch, in which tribals and forest dwellers are protesting the diversion of forest land. These conflicts spread across eight states affect over 1 million people.

As per the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, forestland cannot be diverted to non-forest use without the consent of tribals and forest dwellers and without recognising their traditional rights. Yet, across India, 1.9 million or 46% of all forest-rights claims were rejected. Various state governments violated the law by allowing forest guards to illegally decide claims, and asking tribals to furnish satellite imagery and non-existent, 75-year-old records, IndiaSpend reported on March 2, 2019.

The Supreme Court had, on February 13, 2019, ordered for the eviction of about 9.5 million forest dwellers whose claims under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 were rejected. After widespread criticism and protests and a petition by the central government, the Supreme Court temporarily stayed its own order on February 28, 2019.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have used outdated laws and bypassed a recent central law to acquire land. While the state laws do not require the consent of the landowners for the acquisition, the central law--called the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act of 2013--requires the consent of 70% of the landowners.


After saying that a leaked National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report on unemployment ‘painted a distorted picture of employment’, the government released the same report in May 2019. The report, Periodic Labour Force Survey 2017-18 (PLFS), stated that unemployment in India had touched a 45-year high at 6.1%.

This comes at a time when India is home to the world’s second largest working-age population of 688 million people and more working-age population (15- to 59-year-olds) than dependents (people below 15 years and above 64 years). This is called a period of low dependency and India could accelerate growth in this period, provided that the right policies and programmes are put in place right now, IndiaSpend reported on August 23, 2019.

Other countries have seen a high rate of economic growth during their period of low dependency, the report stated. For instance, in the 10-year period starting 1985, when China’s dependency ratio was similar to India’s today, China grew at an average rate of 9.16% per year, data from the World Bank show. Similarly, South Korea grew at an average of 9.2% during a similar 10-year period in its demographic journey.

However, India could lose this opportunity because of the high levels of unemployment. The PLFS report showed that joblessness was highest among the urban female youth (27.2%), educated urban females (19.8%), rural male youth (17.4%) and educated rural females (17.3%).

To provide a reported perspective to ongoing national controversies over job losses after demonetisation and the implementation of goods and services tax, IndiaSpend spoke to unskilled and semi-skilled workers from 11 labour hubs across the country. Our reports showed how jobs are diminishing in these hubs and wages for existing jobs remain low.

Of around 61 million jobs created in India over 22 years post-liberalisation of the economy in 1991, 92% were informal jobs, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of NSSO data for 2011-12.

Crime against women

The number of cases of crime against women reported in 2017 (359,849) were 9% more than in 2015, data released in 2019 by NCRB stated. The biggest chunk (29%) of these cases were registered under the section for 'cruelty by husband/his relatives'. This was followed by 'assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty' (23.9%) and 'kidnapping & abduction of women' (18.4%).

At 32,559, rape cases accounted for 9.6% of the total crimes against women. Also, nearly one in three married women between the ages of 15 and 49 in India are victims of spousal violence--physical, emotional or sexual--data from the National Family Health Survey (2015-16) said.

In December 2012, a 23-year-old paramedical student was gang-raped by six men in a moving bus. The crime, known as the Nirbhaya case, sparked widespread public protests and garnered international attention. The central government set up the Nirbhaya Fund in 2013, for enhancing the safety and security of women in the country.

Of Rs 1,672 crore--close to half of the amount spent to build the Statue of Unity--sanctioned by the home ministry for the fund, 91% remains unused, reported on December 7, 2019. The fund receives money from various sources, including the home ministry, the women's welfare ministry and the justice department. While funds allocated under the Department of Justice went completely unused, 20% of funds from the Ministry of Women and Child Development were used.

Despite more cases of crime against women being reported after the Nirbhaya case, there has been little or no impact on arrests and convictions rates in Delhi, IndiaSpend reported on August 3, 2019. The conviction rate for rape crimes in Delhi has been on a steady decline since 2007 and reached a historic low of 18.9% in 2016 from 27% in 2006, said the report.

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