(ARTICLE) Another Vidarbha : Bharat Dogra

(ARTICLE) Another Vidarbha : Bharat Dogra

Even as policymakers and the media exult in India's growth story, it was left for the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to bare a few skeletons, literally speaking.

According to NHRC, there have been 100 suicides and hunger deaths in just two of Bundelkhand's seven districts (Jhansi, Jalaun, Lalitpur, Banda, Chitra-koot, Mahoba and Hamirpur) over the last four years.

One can safely assume that 400 people have lost their lives in the entire region over this period. Yet, it has
taken the Uttar Pradesh government all this while to declare four districts drought-prone. Is this another Vidarbha?

NHRC blamed the crisis on a malfunctioning PDS and cancellation of ration cards of poor people. In addition, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), which was introduced in six of Bundelkhand's seven districts in its first year, did not deliver the expected results.

The Union Budget, which extends NREGS to another 130 districts from the present number of 200, has only increased the allocation by another Rs 700 crore to Rs 12,000 crore. A reduction in per district allocations cannot do regions like Bundelkhand much good.

A district is declared drought-prone when crop loss is over 50 per cent. Apart from Jhansi district, 80 per cent of the population lives in rural areas.

Social activists in the area point out kharif loss of over 50 per cent was the norm. The rabi crop is no better;
hence drought-relief work should be started without delay and NREGS implemented in its proper spirit.

According to Bhagwat Prasad, director of Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Seva Sansthan (ABSSS), "Despite the existence of employment guarantee, very large-scale distress migration is taking place in most villages".

Abishek of Arunodaya points out that in Bharha village in Mahoba district, a farmer with 27 bighas committed suicide. He could not pay back a loan taken for buying a tractor due to the recent crop failures.

In Nahri village, Banda district, where five starvation deaths occurred in the last two years, people were so fed up with official apathy that they announced a mass suicide in July 2006.

A recent visit to the Dalit basti of this village revealed that conditions of extreme distress are widespread.

In Padui village of the same district, eight suicides linked to poverty and indebtedness have taken place in the last six years. In addition, nine Dalits died due to desperate efforts to earn a little income in highly hazardous conditions.

The overwhelming majority of villagers are indebted to private moneylenders or banks or both. Recovery notices have been sent to several of them.

Several farmers run the risk of being reduced to landlessness if their land is auctioned for loan recovery.

Abid Ali of ABSSS points out, "On the one hand, people suffer from hunger, and on the other a two years old payment of 74 quintals of grain has not been made to 45 workers in Tikariya. In many villages, anganwadis appear to be non-existent".


Source: Times Of India. Dated: March 07, 2007

Sent by: Mr. Bhagwat Prasad, Chitrakoot