Already reeling under an Rs. 1.21 lakh loan that he had taken three years ago to cultivate his eight acre of land, Tej Bahadur Singh, 65 a farmer in Gahabra village in Banda was dealt a second blow last month.
Farmers at Gahabra village in Distt. Banda who have decided to opt for Right to Reject all candidates in the upcoming lok Sabha elections. (HT photo/Mohd Zakir)
Living a hand to mouth existence with his family of 10, his hope of repaying the debt got dashed after heavy rain and hailstorm destroyed his entire field of crop, comprising mainly of red and bengal gram, that he had painstakingly grown.
"The bank has been sending me notices but I am not in a position to pay even a penny. First it was drought, now it's the hailstorm. We only hear about the Bundelkhand package and how it will improve our situation. Do you see any work here, any irrigation project? If the package was meant to help poor farmers, how come so many of us got left out? Singh asks.
Some 2000 farmers, burdened with heavy debts, had committed suicide in the region between 2008-10 after severe drought destroyed their crops and drove them to abject poverty.
To provide relief to farmers, the UPA-II had in 2009 announced the Rs. 7266 crore Bundelkhand package, of which Rs. 3506 crore was allocated for various drought mitigation measures in seven districts of Uttar Pradesh that falls under Bundelkhand.
Congress' Rahul Gandhi had rooted for the package after visiting some of the worst affected districts.
"My father died of shock last month after our crops got damaged. There is no work in the field. I am planning to move to the city to feed my family. So many people in our village have left. What use is any package if farmers are forced to leave their land," said Kalicharan of Buxi Purwa village.
Farmers in some of the remotest village in the region say they are still waiting to see the benefits under the Bundelkhand package. Fed up of being ignored election and the false promises made by politicians, this time villagers in some 25 villages in Banda, which goes to poll on April 30, have now decided to press the "None of the above" button.
"Earlier Rahul Gandhi visited and made tall promises. Before 2012 assembly elections, the Samajwadi Party (SP) leaders came and said our loans would be waived off… we will get irrigation facilities. Post elections not one leader has set foot here. It's just before election they remember us. Our panchayat has decided to reject all candidates till our demands are met," said Bade Singh, a farmer in Banda's Naraini block.
The villagers have made three demands which they will send to whoever party comes to power. "Better irrigation facilities, compensation for farmers whose crops got destroyed and loan waiver to those who are unable to repay their debts. If our demands are not met, we have decided to commit mass suicide," said Rajesh Singh, another Banda farmer.