(Report) Bundelkhand: 519 farmer suicides in the seven districts year 2011
Official figures confirm 519 suicides in the seven districts in the first five months of this year. This figure includes all suicides.
Everything is in short supply here, especially hope. There was a flicker of it, though, when on April 30 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came here with Rahul Gandhi. Maybe the people were expecting a miracle, an end to the misery created by season after season of bad crops and the resultant rising debt. Their hope proved to be short-lived. Since then, nine farmers have killed themselves in Banda district alone, the worst hit in a cluster of seven district that form the ravaged Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh. The other six districts are Hamirpur, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Mahoba, Chitrakoot and Jalaun. Banda district hospital has reported around 330 cases of suicide between January and May this year.
Locals here say most of the suicides are by indebted farmers,
their world darkened by the burden. The actual number, however, is difficult to
tell. Official figures confirm 519 suicides in the seven districts in the first
five months of this year. This figure includes all suicides. But even if one
were to go by the official figures, there has been an alarming rise in the rate
of suicides in the last five months. In the 12 months of 2009, there were 568
suicides in the seven districts against 519 in just the first five months of
this year. In 2010, 583 suicides were recorded. Between 2001 and 2005, there
were 1,275 cases of suicide (the period includes 2002 and 2004, two harsh
Obviously, some additional factor, other than the normal depressive factors, has been responsible for the sudden spurt in suicides. There is good reason to believe that the killer factor this year has been rural indebtedness. The total amount of current outstanding rural bank debts in Bundelkhand is Rs 4,370.32 crore. This is 21% more than 2010 when the total bank debts stood at Rs 3,613.22 cr. The region is among the most backward in the country, marked by high poverty. The soil is rocky and of low fertility, having suffered erosion of topsoil and denuded of green cover. There are no significant irrigation schemes and cultivation is largely rain dependent, though rainfall itself is scanty.
Bhupat Arak, a 40-year-old farmer of Badokhar Khurd hanged himself on May 27. Officials say he killed himself after a fight with his wife. But he was supporting a family of nine: wife, mother and six children, four of them girls who have to be married off. He had six bighas of land, but the crop was a washout this year. And he owed UP Allahabad Gramin Bank Rs 1.5 lakh. In Hamirpur's Garha village, 18-year-old Manorama Singh ended her life so that her 78-year-old grandfather, Prahlad, would not have to take yet another loan for her marriage. Ending her life, she thought, would put an end to the family's problems. It hasn't. Singh owes SBI's Ichauli Bank over Rs 3 lakh.
In four of the worst affected districts, Banda, Hamirpur, Lalitpur and Jhansi, farmers owe banks about Rs 2,750 crore. And income has been patchy. Since 2002, three years have been declared drought-affected: in 2002, 2004 and 2009. This year, too, the crop has been bad. Over the last few years, things have progressively gone from bad to worse for farmers in Bundelkhand. The emergency medical officer at Banda's district hospital, Dr Vineet Sachan, said,"The district hospital treats at least three suicide or attempted suicide cases every day. We are able to save about 60% cases that are brought to us in time. We have observed a year-on-year increment of 20% in suicide cases over the past few years. Since January 2011, we've had over 550 cases."