In the killing fields of Vidarbha, Maharashtra – more than 50 suicides have taken place in the last month alone following an unseasonal hailstorm that destroyed crops – suicide and farmers’ debt is not the hot button topic it seems.
“Unfortunately caste is all that matters even to farmers in the elections,” said Prof Ghanshyam Darane who has worked with Sharad Joshi’s Shetkari Sangathana, an organisation for farmers.
It is election season and the model code of conduct has got in the way of government measures reaching the farmer. Parties, however, are making a political currency of suicides.
The BJP PM hopeful Narendra Nodi held a ‘chai pe charcha’ with a handful of farm widows in Yavatmal 10 days ago. But, first, there was no tea on offer. Second, Modi never got into a dialogue with the widows. “It was rather like a groom coming to see the bride and being interested in a conversation with only her distant cousins,” said Sarita Temkar, a lawyer who works among farmers.
Darane added, “Yavatmal farmers are not Modi’s responsibility, but we haven’t heard his views or policies on farmers. Neither at the tea meeting, nor in his manifesto.”
But do farmers care? Not quite. The Congress candidate, a tribal, Shivajirao Moghe, is hoping to ride the caste factor to victory.
Thrice the constituency voted in the Shiv Sena. But its candidate Bhavna Gavli is in a bit of a personal spot this time — her former husband and election agent is now an independent candidate hoping to outdo all the tricks he employed in the past to ensure her victory.
“It is sad” said Darane, “that the farmers’ desire for change is limited only to the general mood in the country”.