Bundelkhand: More than 500 debt ridden farmers have committed suicide in the last 5 months Bundelkhand despite a Rs 7000 crore special package from the Centre.
The story has now become a part of Bundelkhand's folklore with eight years of drought, starvation and debt, due to which there have been 2945 farmer suicides in the last 10 years and 519 farmer suicides in the last five months alone.
Veerpal Rajput, 45-year-old, is now part of that statistic as he was found hanging from a tree in his own fields after failing to pay back Rs 1.5 lakh he had borrowed. The bank had been sending him notices to pay up and the pressure was killing says his son Lakhanlal.
It is a story that repeats itself across the 13 arid districts of Bundelkhand everyday as desperate poor farmers are driven to suicide because of a harsh drought and mounting debt. The story has constantly been underplayed by the Uttar Pradesh government because it's just too embarrassing to acknowledge.
As part of their systematic cover up, the state government says that a farmer Pramod Tewari from Banda immolated himself because he was an alcoholic and not because he had got a notice from the bank to pay back his tractor loan. The notice was sent despite the Allahabad High Court barring them to do so and despite the government cancelling the debt taken by farmers in 2007. Ironically, Tewari's suicide came two months after Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came calling, announcing a Rs 7000 crore plus package to end Bundelkhand's cycle of deaths.
Since then, 10 other farmers in the region have ended their lives. The problem is an old one - of the Re 1 meant for farmers, only 15 paisa reaches them and the rest is lost in transit, corruption and underutilization. The state government has used only nine per cent of the funds so far and blame games continue.
Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar said, "The money wasn't released in time by the Central government. We were to get Rs 21,000 crore in the last four years, but we haven't got it yet."
As the politics continues in the run up to the big Uttar Pradesh elections next year, the loud rhetoric drowns the desperate voice of those who get left behind.