Talk of farmers misery, and you immediately think of Vidharba region in Maharashtra. You have read about suicides committed by thousands of farmers in Vidharba at a regular interval. There have been a number of committees, not less than 19 by a last count, that have gone into examining the reasons behind the serial death dance being enacted in Vidharba. And yet, there seems to be no respite for the beleaguered farmers.
I draw your attention to another hotspot of farmers misery. It has not caught the nation’s attention like Vidharba dots the distress chart. But perhaps in many ways it is is faced with much worse natural conditions, where continuous drought for a few years has played havoc with the farm economy, and which has turned into a ‘political battlefield of the deaths’.
Thanks to the ensuing elections, The Hindustan Times has sent its team of reporters to different parts of the country. One of the dispatches published on Mar 18, 2009, is about Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh. The report titled ” Guess the price of misery: Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 800″ by Pankaj Jaiswal, brings out the poignant reality. Says the report: Those are the amounts two successive governments gave as compensation to farmers in the drought-hit Bundelkhand region. Some want to dump the cheques this summer — in the ballot box.
Shame, isn’t it?
What caught my attention was the startling figure of farmer suicides. So far, we knew about the statistics churned out about Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Vidharba, and Andhra Pradesh where the suicide rate is very high, but I was stunned when I read what a three-time BJP MP Ganga Charan Rajput from Bundelkhand had to say. “I had filed an application under the Right to Information Act in 2006 and the reply by state police said 1,275 farmers had committed suicide in the region between 2001 and 2005.”
Mr Rajput has since collected area-wise statistics and sent them to both the central and state governments, to ensure they knew the details of the situation. The report further states: In the years since, residents say suicides have continued but officials and the police often put them down to unexplained deaths.
There is nothing new in this approach. All state governments follow the same strategy to avoid taking the blame for the farmer suicides.
[You can read the full report at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/FullcoverageStoryPage.aspx?sectionName=IndiaSectionPage&id=ffb802f9-e5a3-4142-bdae-7a7119f73c7bMyIndiamyvote2009_Special&Headline=The+price+of+misery%3a+Rs+10%2c+Rs+20%2c+Rs+800]
I have visited Bundelkhand a couple of times in the past two years. I have travelled to some parts of the misery belt. And every time I have returned sad, very sad The appalling human tragedy continues to haunt me. I wonder why people should be living in misery and despair at a time when India is sending unmanned vehicles to the moon, at a time when we claim to be a knowledge superpower, and at a time when our granaries are overflowing. Why should farmers, who are the real annadata, be living in misery. Why should an ungrateful nation be in a hurry to dump its farmers, the real backbone of the economy.
Here is what I wrote after my first visit. I am sure it will help you understand what is going wrong in what was once a very productive and prosperous region.
Bundelkhand – kalahandi of central India http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Nov232007/editpage2007112237214.asp