Months ago, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Mr. Singh’s livelihood came crashing down. His one-acre farm had barely produced enough cotton to cover the cost of growing it, and the lockdown even robbed him of his side job as a bus driver.

India now leads the world in new daily reported coronavirus cases and has the second-highest number of cases globally, surpassing Brazil on Monday. In Punjab, where cases have surged, lockdowns have been imposed all over again. The measures, economists say, are forcing millions of households into poverty and contributing to a long-running tragedy: farmer suicides…

Few of the recent examples among farmers have been reported in the Indian news media, according to Mr. Rawal. “It’s hard to say exactly how many because there was massive underreporting of deaths, and even the media could not reach the hinterland because of the lockdown,” he said.