Thursday, October 27, 2011

Same old story: No end to Kalawati's woes -HT

Same old story: No end to Kalawati's woes
Pradip Kumar Maitra

A TRAGIC TALE -There seem to be no end to Kalawati Bandurkar's woes.

Suicides continue to haunt the family of the 56-year-old farm widow from Jalka village in Yavatmal district, who shot to fame in 2008 courtesy Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's impassioned speech in Parliament during a no-trust debate.

Things had begun to look up for Kalawati after Gandhi highlighted her plight. Congress workers and NGOs flocked to her doorstep with financial help.
As a result, she now gets Rs14,400 every month as interest after Sulabh International, an NGO, deposited Rs30-lakh in a bank on her behalf.

However, the spate of suicides continues, with three of her family ending their lives in five years.

The latest to commit suicide was her second daughter, Savita Khamamkar (27), who lived in Radegaon near Warora in Chandrapur district. Savita, who was ailing, set herself afire last month. She sustained over 85 per cent burn injuries and died at a government-run hospital in Chandrapur on September 26.

A distraught Kalawati said: “Savita was suffering from stomach ulcer and had not been keeping well. Her husband Diwakar, a farmer, provided all necessary treatment to her for which he had to borrow money.
This year, the yield from their farmland was very meagre.
When Savita learnt that Diwakar had taken a loan for her treatment, and that he faced the prospect of defaulting on his repayment, she decided to end her life.“

Life in the hinterland is neither easy nor free of troubles, especially in rural Vidarbha and the region's cotton belt in particular. Kalawati's tragic tale shows that any assistance given in isolation does not help the suffering farmers in the region, where, on an average, two farmers commit suicide every day.

“The situation is volatile".
Despair and distress levels are high. This is not suicide by farmers but genocide by the state.
We have been demanding food security for the poor farmers and inclusion of marginal farmers under BPL (Below Poverty Line) but the government has completely ignored us,“ said Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti, who has been documenting farmers' suicides since 2001.

Kalawati, who has given her three-acre land on lease this season because she could not get anything from the farm last year, is clueless about how the problems that plague the the region can be tackled.

“No one in this region is able to cope with farming pressures due to high agro input costs and low remunerative price for their produce. The only reason I am now reasonably better off is because of the financial help from Sulabh International,“ she said
told HT..

However, what Kalawati did not mention is that the financial help she received has made her something of an outcast in the village. She hardly goes anywhere or has any visitors these days.

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