No money to buy ox, MP farmer’s minor daughters pull plough
Financial crisis reduced a farmer in Sehore’s Basantpur Pangri village to use his two daughters, instead of oxen to pull the plough in their fields.india Updated: Jul 10, 2017 11:52 IST
Sisters Radha and Kunti are bound to a routine like a bullock to its yoke for the past three years.
The siblings dropped out of school to help their father till and level his small farm, pulling the yoke as he steered the plough. They are too poor to buy and support an ox.
And they live at a tribal village in Sehore, the home district of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is facing a violent farmer strike demanding debt relief and better price for their produce.
“Because of poverty I cannot buy bullocks and, so, my daughters are taking their place. They studied till Class 8 but opted out of school because of my financial problems,” said Sardar Barela of Basantpur Pangri village, about 63km from Bhopal.
Radha, the 14-year-old elder sister, wants to study but the family doesn’t have money for her school re-admission.
Kunti, aged 11, holds out her two hands for an explanation. The blister- and callus-encrusted palm is a reflection of the yoke of poverty she is bearing at such a tender age.
Barela’s brother said the farmer had approached the authorities for help.
“But nobody listens to us. What can we do, we are poor … so my nieces had to leave school and help the family in the farm,” Daya Ram said.
The authorities have, however, taken note of the family’s situation after still photos and videos of the two girls pulling a yoke were shared extensively on social media.
Local rural official Ramdwar Keer visited the farmer’s home and assured help. “The brother has bullocks but Barela has none. I checked.”
District collector Tarun Kumar Pithode has sent a team of officials to the village.
“We will do our best to help. Our team told the father he shouldn’t use the girls for such work.”
Images of the Barela girls surfaced at a time the state is battling an outburst of discontent, which poses a challenge for Chouhan, the BJP chief minister since 2005, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has promised to double farmers’ incomes over the next five years.
Back-to-back droughts, freak hailstorms and mounting crop loans have driven several farmers to suicide in the state. Desperate farmers launched a mass protest in Mandsaur, which turned violent and six people died in police firing on June 6.