(News) State government's Indifference turns Bundelkhand into a region of invisible farmer suicides

State government's Indifference turns Bundelkhand into a region of invisible farmer suicides

The Land of Jalaun, UP Invisible Suicides

Deaths of farmers in UP's Bundelkhand region are accidental, insists the state, and not due to distress caused by unseasonal rains

Vikram Singh remembers the last days of his elder brother Jitendra with clarity. Thirty five-year-old Jitendra was a farmer who lived in a remote village in Jalaun district in southwest Uttar Pradesh. The district is situated in the drought-prone Bundelkhand region which has been fighting acute agricultural distress for the past decade.

This year, Jitendra was more optimistic about life than in earlier years when he had to suffer losses repeatedly on account of drought.

He expected a decent harvest and planned to marry off his eldest daughter. Jitendra even found a suitable boy from the neighbouring village and fixed a tentative date in May.

But then Bundelkhand was hit by unseasonal rains and hailstorm in the last week of March. When Jitendra visited his farm he found that his pea crop was washed away. "Since that day, Jitendra stopped talking to anyone in the family and locked himself up in his room," says Vikram.

Earlier this week, Jitendra hanged himself in his room. "He had given his word to the bridegroom's family. The humiliation led him to commit suicide," said Vikram. The farmer is survived by four children and his wife.

State Apathy

In another village nearby, the relatives of another farmer are mourning too. Mahavir Singh saw the destruction caused by the unseasonal rains and collapsed on the field. By the time his relatives carried him home, he was dead. Mahavir had also planned to marry off his daughter post-harvest. Both farmers had piled up debts due to the frequent spells of drought.

Stories of farmers committing suicide or dying of heart attacks on the field have become fairly commonplace in the region. Conversations between farmers from different villages begin with "another one gone today". The local newspapers also report these incidents regularly. So it appears strange that the only people who do not appear to have any knowledge about these deaths are the local district administration and the state government officials who operate out of Lucknow.

The district collector as well as the chief secretary of the state have issued statements to the effect that they were yet to receive information about farmer suicides in the region. Villagers here say their lives are now perennially dedicated to settling the debts and when they are unable to do so, they take the hard way out. Typically, a farmer takes loans through the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) scheme and, when he is unable to pay back, he takes additional loans from local moneylenders.

When the crop fails as badly as it has this time, he finds that no one from the administration even bothers to assess the damage to the crop. This means that the insurance money due to him rarely materializes and the compensation too is awarded after lengthy paperwork. Devoid of support from the government agencies at this point, dozens of farmers in the region have taken the extreme step of killing themselves.

Talking to ET Magazine, more than 30 villagers in Jalaun said they are also harassed by the police department when they are unable to repay loans. "Even as we get picked up by the police, the moneylenders' goons will be waiting for us when we get back from the police station," said a farmer.

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Courtesy: The Economic Times