(News) Political games are not solving problems of Bundelkhand
In 2013, farmer Shivpal killed himself. His son, Jagjit, has still not
recovered from the loss.
He says, “My father had taken a loan from a government bank
as well as a private money lender. He had a bigha of land and three sons,
including me. He hanged himself from a tree.”
Shivpal’s suicide was not the first in the twin village of Paduee-Madhopur in
Banda district of Uttar Pradesh.
For that matter, the worsening agricultural distress caused
by repeated crop failures because of back-to-back droughts in the semi-arid
Bundelkhand region has been in the spotlight since July 2006. Kishorilal Sahu
had committed suicide then.
The suicide triggered outrage, particularly after a senior
district official suggested that Kishori had killed himself because one of his
daughters was “characterless”. The insensitive remark made the villagers
furious, recalls Ashish Sagar, a drought and right to information campaigner in
the region. For some time, the villagers observed ‘chulha bandi’, a strike by
putting out the kitchen fire, to protest the farm crisis.
“My husband had around six bighas and a loan of nearly Rs 1
lakh. Owing to crop failure, debt distress and the fact that he had six
daughters, he hanged himself,” Shobha Devi, his widow, says.
Bundelkhand straddles southern UP and northern Madhya
Pradesh. Seven districts — Banda, Mahoba, Jhansi, Chitrakoot, Jalaun, Lalitpur,
and Hamirpur — are in UP. Only about 32% of the region’s cultivated area is
under irrigation, but even that fails at the time of drought.
When crops wither, many farmers wilt under debt and despair.
There have been six confirmed farmer suicides in Paduee-Madhopur since 2006.
There have been two more such incidents but they cannot be attributed, at least
directly, to drought. Human rights organisations say the figures are way higher
– in thousands. Each time there is an election, politicians land up to promise
relief. But villagers think little will change.
Politics of packages
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who was the party
general secretary then, visited the village in 2008.
Ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the UPA government led
by Manmohan Singh announced a Rs 7,266-crore package. Of that, Rs 3,506 crore
was sanctioned to the UP part of Bundelkhand.
The package covered 2009 to 2012 initially, but was extended
to March 31, 2015 because the state government did not utilise the money within
Courtesy: Hindustan Times