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Distress suicides return to haunt Bundelkhand

Vishnu Pandey  |  New Delhi/ Kanpur 

Even as the nationalised and private lenders pat their backs, flaunting mounting number of Kisan Credit Cards (KCCs) disbursed, the credit worn farmers in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh are reverting to distress suicides, reminiscent of the situation two years back. The latest incident involves a peasant from Banda mandal, who hanged himself to death giving in to his inability to repay debt of Rs 50,000 he had borrowed from local branch of Allahabad Bank.

Locals fear that such incidents are poised to recur if timely and adequate pre-emptive measures are not initiated. It may be noticed that the Banda mandal has the distinction of maximum farmers having obtained KCCs, 22,675 to be precise.

According to official data, total harvest loans amounting to Rs 125.47 crore has been disbursed to the farmers of Banda alone, which the farmers are not in a position to repay, threatening to bring back the dark days of mass distress suicides in the region.

Adding to the fear is the imminent failure of pulse and millet crops sown by the farmers, which have been heavily hit due to premature rise in temperature. The temperature has touched 40 degrees in March itself, ruining the crops.

Last year, the spate of hundreds of suicides had been arrested owing to the mammoth loan waiver by the UPA government prior to the Assembly polls. The drought that followed in August last had begun to sow the seeds for impending disaster six months later, further aggravated by the mindless and missionary zeal distribution of KCCs by the lending institutions.

Now fearing torture at the hands of lenders and losing self-esteem, the farmers are resorting to suicides again. The last seven years have seen an accentuation of adverse weather conditions in the region with farmers hit by prolonged drought, hailstorms and decrease in annual rainfall. Compared to the situation 25-30 years ago, there has been a sharp decrease in rainfall in recent times with rains being restricted to much lesser number of days in a year.

Though almost the entire region is covered by the government’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which aims not only to provide employment but to restore infrastructure in villages by undertaking water conservation, repair and upkeep of village tanks among other things., still many blocks remain where not a single household has received 100 days of work or unemployment allowance.

Pointing out problems with implementation of the scheme Sanjay Singh of a local NGO, Paramarth, says those who got job under the scheme barely had 20 days of work; even wages of many workers have not been paid for many months.

Where the administration could have stepped in to change things for the better they have failed miserably. Proper implementation of the employment guarantee scheme could do a lot to salvage the farmers’ situation.

First Published: Fri, April 02 2010. 00:39 IST