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Aug 31, 2007 at 10:54pm IST

In Vidarbha, PM finds his healing touch ineffective

Mumbai: Just a month ago, 38-year-old Jyoti Manikrao Deshmukh carried food to the farm for her husband. Today, she has to plough the farmland herself. In four years, three men in the Deshmukh family have committed suicide after being burdened with debt.

"Char saal pehle pehle, sasur ne kiya. Ek saal baad devar ne. Fir ish saal pati ne. Karza bahot ho raha tha. Fasal kuch ho nahi raha tha. Isliye aatmahatya ki (My father in-law committed suicide four years back. Then a year later, my brother in-law did the same and this year, my husband took his own life. The debt had become enormous and we were not being able to produce anything in the farmland)," Jyoti Deshmukh narrates.

Farmers in the killing fields of Vidarbha live on credits and die in installments. As many as 1,338 farmer have ended their lives till date. On Friday, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the region and announced a new package, Vidharba was still grappling with the dark reality of farmer suicide.

On an average, one farmer commits suicide in Vidharba every eight hours. It is possible that by the time the PM's 24-hour-long visit to Maharashtra ends, another three would have fallen victim to the suicide trap.

The 3,750-crore- rupee package announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for cotton farmers in Vidharba hasn't touched many lives like that of 64-year-old Bhavrao Ingole, 74-year-old Sukdev Meshram and 26-year-old Sunita Lasankute.

Bhavrao received a cheque of a paltry Rs 350, which bounced twice

"Pichle saal kheti baris se kharab ho gyi thi, toh 350 ka cheque mila. Pehla cheque bank ne kaha aap late ho gaye ho. Fir mai adhikari ke pass gaya nya date dal kar fir diya wo bhi bounce ho gaya (Last year, the crop got damaged due to rains and I got a cheque of Rs 350 in the name of relief. Even that bounced twice)," Bhavrao Ingole claims.

When CNN-IBN confronted the district agriculture officer with these documents, he admitted there was a problem.

"Isnei cheque chai mahine baad dala hai, baad me isse tarik change kar ke diya hai, fir bhi cheque return aaya hai, aur hum iski jach karenge (He had tried to encash the cheque six months later, so it bounced. Later, when we changed the date, the bank returned it again. We will look into the issue)," Ashok Gdrkandharkar, Agriculture Officer of Washim, explains.

After taking stock of the relief work being done for the farmers in the region, the PM on Friday suggested that the state government should pursue four per cent growth in agriculture, which is the only way to end the agrarian crisis in the state.

But will the PM's visit give any real answers to the likes of Bhavrao, Meshram and Sunita? Or will Jyoti too succumb to the pressures of debt like all the menfolk in her family? These questions stared in the face even though the PM is now asking some tough questions about the implementation of his relief package for the cotton farmers in Vidharba.

(With Piyush Pushpak in Nagpur and Rohit Chandavarkar in Mumbai)

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