Monday, August 23, 2010

‘Suicide only option’

Suicide only option’
Pradip Kumar Maitra ■

FARMERS’ ORDEAL Her debt-ridden husband’s suicide in 1997 was the first such case to be reported in Vidarbha; 13 years later,Saraswatibai’s woes have,if any thing, worsened

Saraswatibai Ambarwar of Telangtakli —a sleepy outpost in Vidarbha’s Yavatmal district–was 33 when her husband, Ramdas, killed himself.
Mounting debts and cropf ailures forced the cotton farmer to commit suicide on January 21, 1997,leaving behind his wife and four daughters.
Ramdas’was the first reported case of a farmer’s suicide in Maharashtra.
Thirteen years later,the numbers keep mounting.
At least four farmershave committed suicide in the last two days, taking this year’s toll to 566. Thirty-eight farmers have already committed suicide this month while the number was 46 in July.
These farmers leave behind widows like Saraswatibai. After her husband’s death, creditors began pressurising Saraswatibai to repay his debts.
The exhausted 46-year-old said she has no option but to do what her husband did.
Saraswatibai owns 10 acres [one acre=43,560 squarefeet] but the yield over the past few years has been poor.“I borrowed Rs72,000 from a bank and Rs 60,000 from a private money lender,” she said. “I could repay the bank only Rs 53,800 and because I failed to repay the rest, I could not get fresh loans.” After Ramdas’ suicide,then chief minister,Narayan Rane, visited Telangtakli and handed over a cheque for Rs1 lakh to Saraswatibai.The widow spent this amount on the wedding of one of her daughters.
She said Rane had assured her that he would take care of the girls’ education and offer all financial help.“No body kept the promise.The government even had not listed our family as belowt he poverty line (BPL),” she said.
The mother of four lost one daughter,Jayashree,to kidney failure because she could not afford treatment.Without fresh loans this kharif season, Saraswatibai could not take up. “We eat only once a day,” she said.

The cotton belt of eastern Vidarbha has many such stories.
Tears rolled down the eyes of Ratnamala Tekam(22) as she spoke about her husband’s death. Her debt-ridden husband, Laxman (35), swallowed pesticide on March 26 this year.
“Only those who have gone through this trauma can understand my pain,”she sobbed, clutching her five-month-old daughter,as her 65-year-old father-in-laws at silently in their small hut in Mangi village in Yavatmal.
Kishore Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti said the farmers killed themselves because they had defaulted on loan repayment and could not get fresh loans.
Yavatmal’s District Collector Sanjay Deshmukh, however, claimed that local banks had disbursed Rs 545 crore in the district this season. “It would be difficult to provide crop loans to chronic defaulters,”he said, adding that some nationalised banks were not cooperating with the administration for disbursing loans.
The Rs 5,075-crore special relief packages, announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the state government in 2006 to aid distressed farmers in Yavatmal, Buldhana, Amravati, Wardha, Akola districts, have had little impact.
The Comptroller and Auditor General’s(CAG) performance audit of these packages said they were tardily implemented and “inconsistent with local needs”. “Farmers suicides shot up dramatically even when the two packages were (on),”the CAGreport said.
The funds spent did not improve agricultural support prices. The CAG said farmers did not benefit from interest and loan waiver because their incomes did not increase.

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