Over 150 farmers from various areas of cotton-growing Vidharba, which has recorded the highest number of farmer suicides in the country, converged at Azad Maidan on Tuesday to protest government apathy.
These farmers had come to support two-time MLA from Achalpur-Paratwada constituency, Bacchu Kadu, who has launched an indefinite hunger strike under the banner of Prahar Sanghatna, at Azad Maidan on Monday.
Bhaiya Thakre, 31, a farmer who accompanied Kadu, said, “We have been debt-ridden due to failing crops. Five years ago, my elder brother, who was the head of our household, ended his life as he was unable to repay a loan of Rs20,000 he had taken from the local moneylender.”
The farmers are demanding an aid of Rs10,000 per acre for dry-land farmers. “The condition of the farmers in Vidharbha is dismal. The exponential rise in the number of suicides is testimony to this fact. They are at the mercy of timely monsoon for their livelihood. If that fails, they are rendered penniless. Despite our several attempts to draw attention to the plight of these farmers, the state government has turned a deaf ear to our woes,” said Kadu on Tuesday.
Ravi Deshmukh, a cotton farmer from Bellora in Amravati said, “I lost three acres of my land due the construction of the Upper Wardha Dam in 1993. Promises of being given a job remain unfulfilled, and I was paid a pittance of Rs9,000. With the cost of cotton farming increasing and the low output, it has become difficult to sustain a seven-member family. I want my kids to study in a convent school, but that will only remain a dream.”