The debt-stricken farmers of Vidarbha have now found the will to live. Instead of taking the extreme step, they have found a new ally to keep them alive and virtually kicking - Gandhigiri. And their new mantra is Lage Raho Kisanbhai!
Drawing inspiration from the runaway hit Hindi movie, Lage Raho Munnabhai these beleagured ryots have now resorted to a novel Gandhian way to protest -- Gandhigiri - by washing the feet of a bank manager and worshiping him, for his refusal to finance the farmers recently.
Spearheading this new 'life-saving' movement, a group of farmers under the banner of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti resorted to peaceful Gandhian agitation -- Lage Raho Kisanbhai - at Patanbori, bordering Andhra Pradesh in Yavatmal district on October 12.
Farmers, including women of nearby villages gathered at the village at noon and approached SG Kakde, the branch manager of SBI and garlanded him for refusing fresh loans to farmers.
It was said that the manager had issued a notice on September 30 saying that the farmers of the area would not get fresh loans as per the new directives from his superiors. He also allegedly rejected several fresh loan cases.
This irked the farmers of the area who badly needed the money for harvesting and other needs, particularly with Diwali round the corner.
Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti organised the local farmers on the issue and decided to take out a morcha to the bank in protest against the new decision. They, however, decided that the agitation would purely be on the lines of Gandhigiri and christened it as Lage Raho Kisanbhai.
Over 1000 farmers, including women, gathered at the village on Thursday and marched to the SBI branch at 2 pm. They first garlanded the bank manager and worshipped him while women activists in the group washed his feet by water, carried from neighbouring Painganga river.
Vijay Borshettiwar, bother of Ramesh Borshettiwar, who had committed suicide a few days back as the SBI branch rejected his loan application, also washed the feet of the bank manager on the occasion.
Some of the farmers also submitted a memoranda to the bank manager, requesting him to restart fresh loans. Responding to the Gandhigiri the SBI branch manager, Kakde told the agitators that although he agreed and sympathised with them, he could not sanction their loans but would forward their request to the finance ministry.
“I will try my level best that the coming Diwali should not be a black one for you,” he said and assured that he would follow up with his superiors to restart loans soon.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Kakde admitted that agitators had been to his office and worshipped him by washing his feet and putting tilak on his forehead. “I have stopped to provide fresh credit to farmers from September 30 as per the RBI guidelines,” he informed and expressed his helplessness on the issue.
But the branch of the bank had disbursed loans of over Rs 4.32-crore to farmers since July this year, he further added.
Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti, said that the protest was inspired from the Bollywood blockbuster, Lage Raho Munnabhai, which recently revived the Gandhian ideology and popularised the peaceful agitation initiated by the Father of the Nation.
“We are planning to resort to such an agitation in front of all nationalised and cooperative banks in Yavatmal district, which have stopped financing farmers” he declared. Yavatmal is one of the worst affected districts in the region. Around 400 farmers have committed suicide in Yavatmal district alone in the current kharif season.
Meanwhile, five more farmers have taken their lives in the last 24 hours and the death toll has touched 976, since June last year. As many as 43 farmers have taken the drastic step in October month alone while 125 farmers had committed suicide last month.
Among the farmers who had committed suicide in the last 24 hours, two were women. The latest to join the spiraling list of suicide victims were: Pundalikrao Gayki of Dongaryawli (Amravati), Sanjay Jerapure, Kherda (Washim), Devibai Rathod of Warandari (Yavatmal), Bhaurao Thengre of Shindur (Chandrapur) and Narmdabai Chavan of Jamb in Akola district.