The relief rush for Gajendra Singh, the Rajasthan farmer who hanged himself at an Aam Aadmi Party rally in Delhi, hides a painful wait for help by families of other dead peasants who couldn’t overcome the shock of a weather-induced crop loss.
Singh of Dausa became the face of the agrarian crisis after unseasonal rain and hailstorms flattened winter crop across swathes of north and west India, instantly drawing outpourings of condolences and monetary assistance to his family.
But farmers such as Satyanarayan Saini of Gagtana village in Kota district remained faceless, a mere addition to the casualty list, and his mourning family awaits assistance and some kind words from officials almost a fortnight after the 55-year-old died of cardiac arrest from the shock of a massive crop damage. Brother Chhotulal said his elder sibling’s heart failed after three bighas of potato crop, sown with an investment of around Rs 80,000, was destroyed by rain. “He was expecting a profit of Rs 2 lakh or so. He was in debt … over Rs 3 lakh. His daughter, Rekha, was to get married on April 30. He was banking on the winter crop to ease his financial burden.” Rekha’s wedding has been cancelled and “we plan to the sell the three bighas to meet expenses” because the state government hasn’t paid any compensation, son Nand Bihari said.
Manju Bai, the 30-year-old wife of a farmer in Kurad village, hanged herself on April 15 as their farmland of 12 bighas and sharecrop in 70 bighas was decimated by the freak weather. Husband Suresh Merotha said the loss would be over Rs 10 lakh. “First we lost a good portion of our coriander crop to a bug infestation. Then, the hail pounded away the crop that survived the disease. My wife could not take the shock.”
Kota district collector Jogaram his hands were tied because disaster relief norms prescribe compensation of Rs 3 lakh each to the next of kin of those killed by rain, lightning and other natural calamities. But there is no provision for relief for deaths from shock or suicide. “Nevertheless, the district administration has sought a list of such farmers. A decision will be taken after going through the list.”
Until then, the wait continues for the grieving families.