2019 Lok Sabha elections: Farm widow in the fray in Yavatmal
Battling scorching heat, Vaishali Yede, 28, talks to a group of more than 50 people at Baangaon, 40km from Yavatmal city in western Vidarbha.
The Yavatmal-Washim candidate’s message is succinct: “I am not here for politics. I chose to contest the elections only when I came to know that more than four lakh farmers have committed suicide in the country . I am on a mission, which can’t be accomplished without your support.”
The heartfelt words from a woman whose husband, Sudhakar Yede, committed suicide in October 2011, within two years of their marriage, over inability to repay farm loan owing to crop failure, strike a chord with the listeners. Yede is said to be the first farm widow contesting the general elections.
Following criticism over cancelling writer Nayantara Sehgal’s inaugural speech at the 92nd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, the organisers invited Yede to give the inaugural speech on January 11 this year.
She belongs to Rajur village of Kalam tehsil in Yavatmal, a district once known for cotton produce, which is now infamous for most number of farmer suicides. Yede is the candidate for Prahaar Janshakti Party (PJP) led by Bacchu Kadu, an independent MLA from Achalpur Assembly constituency, which is a part of the Amravati Lok Sabha constituency. Kadu is a three-term MLA known for holding unique protests. “When Kadu approached me, I asked for two days. On learning about the sad statistics, I decided to take up the challenge. I will work for families affected by suicides,” she said.
Yede feels liquor is a major factor in farmer suicide cases and needs to be banned. Her husband too got drunk before consuming poison at his farm land. “I will ban liquor in the region as farmers get the courage to end their lives only when they are drunk,” she said, adding, “I would have saved him if I wasn’t at my parent’s home that day.” She had a one-month old baby when Sudhakar died.
The state has already banned liquor in three Vidarbha districts — Chandrapur, Wardha and Gadchiroli. Yede, an anganwadi worker, is on a 15-day leave for campaigning. She had completed SSC before marriage and completed HSC only last year to get a job as anganwadi worker. She now earns ₹3,500 a month.
She belongs to Kunbi community and is contesting elections against two senior politicians – Bhavana Gawali, two-term sitting Member of Parliament (MP) from Shiv Sena, and Congress leader Manikrao Thakre, both from the Kunbi community. “With this experiment, we are expecting a discussion on farmers’ plight,” Kadu said.
Dr Madhukar Gumbale from Apeksha Homeo Society, who works in Yavatmal district for rehabilitation of women affected by farmer suicide, said they are planning to mobilise women from villages for Yede’s campaign