As cases of suicide by farmers due to indebtedness continue to be reported in the district, there are hundreds of households in which children, who have lost their fathers, have inherited debt and accompanying distress.
Ranjeet Singh, 35, a farmer from Kotdharmu village, ended his life in 2013 after he failed to repay the debt of his father who had been forced to incur it several years ago.
His ailing mother, Surjit Kaur, was inconsolable while recounting her ordeal. “My husband had taken a loan of around Rs 35,000 and after his death, my son Ranjeet Singh inherited the debt. I can’t even recall the exact year of my husband’s death. We used to own around 15 acres of land but we sold most of it as my grandson is mentally challenged and had to be treated. My son also used to remain under stress due to this,” said Surjit Kaur, who now owns only 4 kanals of land.
She further said that by the time Ranjeet had committed suicide, their debt had increased to around Rs 4 lakh. Ranjeet Singh is survived by his wife, a daughter and a mentally challenged son. The medical expenses for the treatment of his son had stressed Ranjeet. “With a daughter and a disabled son, Ranjeet could not bear the hardships of life and hanged himself in his field two years ago,” said Surjit Kaur.
Ranjeet’s daughter was not even aware of the concept of ‘debt’ even months after his death. “I never knew the reason behind my father’s tragic death. I quitted my studies last year after qualifying Class 10 from a government school in the village. If given a chance, I will pursue my studies and repay the entire loan,” said Kirandeep Kaur, daughter of Ranjeet Singh.
The family constantly stays under the scare of recovery notices sent by banks. “We have burnt several copies of bank notices out of sheer frustration and helplessness,” said Surjit Kaur.
In the last two years, the yield from cotton crop has been relatively low due to uneven weather and whitefly attack, which led to the mounting of debt on farmers in the Malwa belt. According to official records, around 15 cases of suicide have been reported this year. Most of the victims were under debt ranging between `2-4 lakh. In most of the cases, victims’ children quit their studies and inherit meagre land and debt simultaneously.
“Farmers commit suicide under extreme circumstances as they fail to repay their debt. However, with the damage to cotton crop, which is the mainstay of income for the farmers in this region, suicide cases have seen a spurt in the last couple of years. There are numerous cases where teenagers and minors have inherited debt of their fathers,” said a patwari working with the revenue department in the district.