(VIDEO) No Diwali for Bundelkhand farmers
Bundelkhand (Uttar Pradesh): While the rest of the country is in celebration mode, the farmers in Bundelkhand have little to celebrate.
Three years of drought and the Uttar Pradesh government's apathy to their plight has ensured a dark Diwali this year too.
Says a farmer, Munna, "We'll not celebrate Diwali. No one will light candles or diyas and there is no food. People are dying of hunger here."
The meagre compensation these farmers have received for the drought situation they have been facing since 2003 has robbed them of all sparkle this festive season.
The Uttar Pradesh government's relief cheques that are as low as Rs 3 have left these farmers checkmated - literally - for banks don't encash cheques that are less than Rs 100.
Says Munna, "The government has done nothing for us. Crops have dried up and farmers are dying."
And it's not just the compensation amount that's making a mockery of their plight.
This is what Munna will have to do to encash his cheque of Rs 35. He will have to spend Rs 50 to travel to the district headquarters, where the revenue officer is likely to charge him Rs 200 for accepting the cheque.
He will then have to put in another Rs 250 to open a bank account. Little wonder that Munna prefers to leave the 'compensation' cheque untouched.
Most of these farmers have mortgaged their landholdings to banks for a loan which they never received.
Says another farmer, Balli, "How will I be able repay the loan I have taken? My son is also dead now."
Farmers across Banda district in Bundelkhand have a similar tale. With no government aid coming their way, this year too will be a dark Diwali.
The irony of the entire situation is that some of the Rs 3 cheques that were issued cost Rs 4 to print - which is more than the compensation amount.
One wonders who to pity at this time - the poor farmer who is the recipient of this pittance or the socialist government of the state of Uttar Pradesh which is bursting a two-kilometer long cracker to celebrate this Diwali.