Farmer widows of India - Deepti Asthana

I often go to bed thinking of the various possibilities of a brighter tomorrow. But that night, on the muddy floor in Jwanta, a village in Vidarbha region, I lay sleepless switching my moist gaze between the ceiling fan and the picture of Jitender hanging on the wall. He must have hung himself right above my head where his wife Savita found him in the middle of the night In suicide-ridden villages of Vidarbha, tales abound of the sufferings inflicted on the widows of farmers who have killed themselves because of the agrarian crisis in the region.


The whole farmer suicide issue is viewed from the perspective of the male member of the 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 widow and children Once Vidarbha was known for its cotton or "white gold" production, but now the region is mostly known as the suicide belt of India. According to Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), a non-governmental organisation that has been documenting the suicide of farmers for the past 15 years, approximately 6,000 farmers have killed themselves since 2012 in six districts of Vidarbha region - Amravati, Yavatmal, Wardha, Washim, Akola and Buldhana.


Even a debt of 10,000 rupees ($150) is enough to push a farmer over the edge. Young farmers aged between 18 and 30 accounted for the second-highest number of suicides, leaving widows and children to cope with the consequences. The poor and marginal farmers fall into the clutches of moneylenders, who charge exorbitant rates of interest, which the farmers are unable to repay, thus pushing them into perpetual debt that leads to the spate of suicides. The widows are pushed into more debt and take jobs as labourers on other farms to sustain themselves. The children often drop out of school as their mother can't afford to pay fees, and they work to help the family instead. This project is an effort to document their plight and allow them a chance to live and educate their children.



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