Kalawati Bandurkar and Shashikala Ringne — two women, who became the face of the agrarian crisis after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited their homes in two Yavatmal villages in 2008 — are emphatic in their opinion that only the Congress cared for the plight of the poor and marginalised farmers (Yavatmal district came to be known as the epicentre of farmer suicide in the state).
They said the concern shown by Gandhi and the benefits that followed in the form of support from government agencies changed their lives.
Kalawati, 62, a poor farm widow from Jalka, feels her life is stable thanks to financial assistance from Congress workers and NGOs, who flocked to her doorstep.
After getting the financial aid, Kalawati got all her seven daughters married over the last six years and is also looking after their children. She gets Rs15,000 monthly from an NGO. Kalawati, who owns four acres of land, said, “It is only possible because of Rahulji.”
Unlike Kalawati, Shashikala of Sonkhaas village in Yavatmal district, who is a landless labourer, works as a farm hand along with her husband Prahlad. “How can I forget Rahul Gandhi? We were hungry and there was no electricity in my house when Rahulji visited my place. Now we eat well and live well. We got the electricity connection within 10 days of Rahul’s visit,” she said.
Since Gandhi’s visit, Shashikala got her three sons educated. “An NGO made a fixed deposit in a bank from which I get Rs12,000 every month. Moreover, a former Lok Sabha member, Naresh Pugalia donated Rs1.5 lakh for my children’s education. Another NGO gave me Rs2 lakh to help me build my new house,” she said.