Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vidarbha farmer's widow fights for change

NDTV Correspondent, Monday October 5, 2009, Yevatmal


Babytai Bais, a widow with three children, has hit the campaign trail in Vidarbha, which has witnessed the highest number of farmer suicides in the country.

Babytai has replaced Kalavati - famous for her Rahul Gandhi connection - as the candidate for Vidarbha Aghadi.

The front has been floated by the farmer's advocacy group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti and the Shetkari Sanghatna.

As part of campaigning, Babytai holds small meetings to draw villagers including other widows who share her experiences.

"Our seven thousand sisters are unhappy. Their voices should reach out to the government. That's why I am contesting," says Babytai Bais.

She is contesting from Wani in Yevatmal district. Unable to repay a debt of Rs 27,000, her husband killed himself in 2007.

The farmers advocacy group the Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti is hoping her candidature will put the crisis is Vidarbha back in the national spotlight.

"The reason behind suicides by cotton farmers is wrong government policies. No one talks on policies. During election time, the issues are caste, religion, system, money and liquor," says Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti.

Whether or not Babytai stands a chance against established political parties, at least locally, farmers feel this is one candidate who understands what they face.

"They face hardships in farm work. Widows normally work as daily wagers to help kids grow and get them married off. The loan amount also remains to be repaid," says Gajanan Chandurkar, a debt-ridden farmer from Hiwra.

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