Between pyre and poverty- - Deepti Asthana

In 1990s, India woke-up to a spate of suicide among farmers community. Almost 7,000 farmers took their life in the span of three years in the region, it cannot be called suicides; it is rather a situation of severe crisis or a mass genocide which needs immediate attention. A farmer takes his life in every eight hours in a country where agriculture is the primary source of income. And the situation looks worse with every passing day, and might aggravate if the rainfall is poor even this year due to the climate change. Farmers, who are least responsible for climate change, end up being the primary victims and succumbing to the vicious cycle of debts after the crops failing year after year.I have been working with 10-15 villages of Amravati to cover the after math of drought and impact on life of people who are left behind.


In Amravati’s suicide-ridden villages, tales abound of the suffering inflicted on the widows of farmers who have killed themselves because of the agrarian crisis in the region. The whole farmer suicide issue is considered from the perspective of male member of family. But it is important to tell the stories of women who are left behind. So when a crisis-hit farmer kills himself, what happens to the widows and children? His widow is further pushed into the debt trap and multiplies her struggle to make ends meet. Instead, the widow and the family were further pushed into a vicious cycle. The families had to take to working as a laborer in other people’s farms to sustain themselves. The children dropout the school realizing that their mother can’t afford to pay and they need to work as laborer to provide the family.


Savita is one of such widows who are now left with the responsibility of her three daughters- Yogini, Roshni and Tanu, also debt which his husband borrowed from private money lenders and banks for the farming. Jitender hanged himself from the roof of his home in the middle of night, when Savita had no clue about what was going in his mind or how much money was borrowed by him. She received the compensation amount from the government of rupees 1 lakh, but only 30 thousand has been given to her immediately, while 70 thousand has been deposited for her children when they the eldest become 18. The money wasn’t enough for her to pay the debts and she ended up borrowing more money. And the lack of rainfall in last few years led to no production and pushed her into mental trauma.

The project is the story of Savita and many such widows who need a chance to live. There is a need for empathy, to stand with these families and give them the mental and financial support they need. As many of these widows, didn’t hesitate to say that we also think of taking our lives and also of their children. 


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