For two days, the body of 80-year-old Naneh Bhai remained hanging at his house in drought-hit Bundelkhand’s Tikamgarh district. It was only after the stench reached neighbouring hutments that locals entered the house and found that the Dalit farmer had committed suicide.
Bundelkhand region, spread over 70,000 sq km in 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, is battling drought for the past three years. Scanty rainfall and drought have damaged crops on hundreds of acres. This has forced large-scale urban migration and driven many debt-ridden farmers to commit suicide.
Several heart-wrenching stories of the drought-affected farmers were voiced at the Jan Samwad or public hearing held in Bhopal on Sunday to review the worsening drought situation in Madhya Pradesh.
According to social activist Pramod Khare, who works for drought-hit farmers in Bundelkhand, Naneh Bhai committed suicide on April 4 after battling hunger for nearly four months.
The farmer had to beg for food after his son left for Delhi in search of work in December last year, as there was nothing left on the parched fields or home, Khare said.
“He begged for food on some days…And then one day, it was too much for him to continue like this. May be out of self-respect, helplessness or just desperation, the octogenarian chose to end his life,” he said.
Average 3 farmers committed suicide every day in last 15 years
In last 15 years, 18,687 farmer suicides have been reported from across the state, with an average three farmers committing suicide every day.
Sukhwati Pal, a young widow from Tikamgrah, could not hold back her tears on Sunday as she spoke about her 27-year-old husband Laxman Pal Gadariya, who committed suicide after defaulting on a loan. “As we couldn’t repay a Rs 1.5 lakh loan, he hung himself on May 20,” she said, adding that her husband had pinned hopes on the soybean crop on his two acre land, which failed due to drought.
Sagar resident Bharat Patel’s brother too was driven to commit suicide after their crop failed and they couldn’t repay a loan taken for constructing a well and for sowing soybean in Gondia village. “Three years ago, we took a loan for constructing a well. But when the well was dug, there was no water. We had to sell a part of our land. Then my brother took Rs 1 lakh loan from a local moneylender for sowing soybean crop, which was destroyed due to deficient rains. We didn’t get any compensation. Our loan burden grew to Rs 3 lakh. My brother went into depression and hung himself from a tree. My bhabi (sister-in-law) also tried to commit suicide, but we saved her. She was hospitalised for some time. My brother has left four children behind. I don’t know how we will survive,” he told the congregation.
Eight-year old Ajeet Sor from Tikamgarh also lost his father, mother and brother in Morena, where they had shifted in search for work. The family worked as labourers at a construction site and had built a roadside shanty for shelter. “My daddy, mummy and brother died when a truck hit our jhopdi (shanty) where we were sleeping in the evening. My relatives now take care of me. But I miss my mother,” the tribal boy said.
Farmer suicides in the state