(NEWS) Hopes of Bundelkhand farmers soar : TOI

KANPUR: The entire Garhar village under Orai block of Jalaun district was upbeat on Friday. It was smelling freedom from the shackles of seeking bails and being jailed at regular intervals.

"We have lost several of our near and dear ones due to divine injustice. Drought destroyed crops resulting in debts and subsequent suicides," said middle-aged Devesh Vishwakarma, whose father Ram Narain committed suicide last year after failing to pay Rs 1 lakh drawn from the regional Triveni Bank.

Going to jail has become a routine practice for villagers as none of them are in a position to clear bank dues, he added.

Residents of approximately 4,500 villages of 556 panchayats in seven districts of drought-stricken Bundelkhand region along with 400 families of Garhar village were over the moon soon after Union finance minister P Chidambaram announced the generous debt waiver scheme for small and marginal farmers. Almost all families of this village are indebted as they owe over three crore rupees to banks.

Seven have committed suicide and many have disappeared to avoid going to jail, said another Garhar villager Ajai Prasad. Its too late for the departed souls but it would certainly give a new lease of life for the rest of us, he added. Prasad said that villagers were even ready to sell their lands to clear the dues but there were no buyers.

If villagers at Garhar are delighted, even the 3.50-lakh farmers’ families in seven districts of Bundelkhand region, including Jhansi, Jalaun, Lalitpur, Banda, Mahoba, Hamirpur, and Chitrakoot are equally ecstatic. Majority of them would benefit by the waiver scheme since region is dominated by marginal (below one hectare land-holding), and small (one to two hectares) farmers.

The problem of indebtedness in Bundelkhand has already taken a toll witnessing above 4000 suicides or hunger deaths in the last four years in the region.

"At least we can now think of marrying our daughters," reacted Sadhu Singh Kachhwah, a resident of Ninai village in Sarwankheda block of Kanpur Dehat, which witnessed celebration, including distribution of sweets, soon after the news regarding waiver scheme reached the village.

While the loan waiver scheme will benefit three crore small and medium farmers and cover loans worth Rs 50,000 crore in the country, more than 2.80 lakh farmers families would benefit in Bundelkhand region.

The over-due rate in Bundelkhand region is approximately Rs 30 to Rs 40 lakh per village, which is much higher compared to the over all figures in the state, said Sanjay Singh, president of the Orai-based "Parmarth" NGO, which has worked extensively on farmers related issues in the region.

Sanjay Vijaywargia from the Centre for Policy Analysis, Lucknow, said that according to the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) 2004-05, the state has 1.62 crore marginal farmers followed by 31 lakh small and 16 lakh medium farmers (two to four hectares).

The number of big farmers (above 10 hectares) in the state is about 39,000. The recent NSSO survey claimed that 40.30 farmers in the state were indebted so the waiver scheme would benefit all, he added.

He said that of 2.15 crore operational land holdings in the state, the medium and big farmers should also capitalise on the one-time settlement scheme, which promises 25 per cent waiver as per the finance bill presented on Friday.

If the waiver scheme is a welcome move, equally delightful for the Bundelkhand farmers is the emphasis laid on micro-irrigation scheme, which has received Rs 500 crore to cover additional 4,00,000 hectares of land in the country.

Although the scheme is meant for the entire nation but the drought affected Bundelkhand can be considered as its soul as experts in the recent past have emphasised on micro-irrigation as a major remedial tool for the drought-stricken region.

Micro-irrigation is effective in water-starved areas and it would certainly prove a boon for Bundelkhand region, remarked Harveer Singh, a renowned agronomist and expert on drip irrigation. Working as researcher with Navdanya NGO, Singh, who has also worked with California University, recently visited more than 50 villages of the Bundelkhand region.

As Bundelkhand has become the new Congress-BSP war-zone witnessing back-to-back Rahul Gandhi and chief minister Mayawati rallies in the recent past, the Union government has given a tactical reply to the BSP chief by announcing the waiver scheme.

Paying no heed to Mayawati’s demand of special package of Rs 80,000 crore for development of backward areas like Purvanchal and Bundelkhand, the UPA government has used the waiver trump card, setting the stage for Rahul Baba to spearhead Congress revival campaign from Bundelkhand region.

Courtesy: Times Of India