About an year after it had announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to each family of farmers who had committed suicide, the state government has finally distributed the first instalment of Rs 1 lakh.
The government had released a grant of Rs 10 crore for Sangrur district for the purpose, of which Rs 8.56 crore had been distributed among the affected families. Of the 856 beneficiary families, 562 were those of farmers, while 294 were those of farm labourers. The victims had committed suicides between 2000 and 2006. The compensation was distributed on Sunday at simple functions organised in Sangrur, Dhuri and Lehragaga. Emotions ran high as family members of victim farmers and farm labourers gathered to receive the cheques. Among the recipients of the cheques were sons, daughters, mothers, wives, fathers, who couldn't hold back their tears as they received cheques from Rajya Sabha member Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.
Baljit Kaur of Shahpur Kalan village in Sunam block said the government aid was coming eight years after the unnatural death of her young son Nihal Singh. She said compensation of Rs 2 lakh and that too in instalments was too small to make a difference in their lives. “Eh paisa malham di tarah ae, par zakhm ni par sakda (this money is an ointment, can't heel the wound),” she said, with tears rolling down her cheeks.
Jagseer Sing of Faguwal village said no compensation could bring his father Tara Singh back to the family. “Instead of giving compensation when the worst has already happened, the authorities should find out the reasons leading farmers to take the extreme step and take appropriate steps,” he said.
Sukhwinder Kaur, wife of farm labourer Gurdarshan Singh, who had committed suicide in 2006, said even after huge number of suicide cases, the government failed to waive off their loans and rein in the despotic commission agents.
Meanwhile, many of the beneficiaries said 'something was better than nothing'. Krishan Singh of Harkrishan Pura village said last few years were very tough for the family as it struggled to make both ends meet and the compensation will provide them some sort f succour.
Families miseries bigger than compensation: Dhindsa
Addressing the gathering, Dhindsa admitted that an assistance of Rs 1 lakh was very small to wean away the miseries of affected families and no government could make for the priceless lives of victims.
“As per the records, farmers in the state were under debt of Rs 24,000 crore in addition to the loans taken from commission agents and financers,” he said.
As per a survey in 2012, 5,000 farmers and farm labourers had committed suicides in the state from 2000 to 2010, of which 3,000 were from Sangrur, Mansa and Bathinda districts.