Agra farmer's suicide exposes flaws in rural schemes
May 10, 2007 - 2:15:41 PM
Bhilavali -, May 10 - Dalit farmer Kedar Singh's suicide in an Agra village last week has had one positive fallout - the rural development agencies in the district are now taking stock of their relief schemes and planned projects for small and marginal farmers.
Kedar, a farmer in Bhilavali village of Agra's Kheragarh sub-district, is said to have taken the drastic step as he was reeling from acute poverty.
Vinay Paliwal, a member of NGO Agra Rural Development Association, said: 'Kedar's death proves that grandiose schemes and projects for rural development are not really helping those sections that need them the most.
'When there is a crisis, the farmers have nothing to fall back upon. And we have rural development schemes with all kinds of fancy names and for all seasons and problems. But conditions in the vast rural hinterland remain very much the same. These schemes have only injected a heavy dose of corruption in rural areas,' Paliwal told IANS.
Farmers in several western Uttar Pradesh districts have suffered huge losses due to un-seasonal rains and hailstorms in February and March. Government agencies promised compensation but the poll process prevented any move to provide help because of the code of conduct in force. Small farmers with just a few bighas of land were the most critically affected.
'If farmers with small land holdings continued to commit suicide as Kedar did, what is the use of such an elaborate rural development network and scores of projects and schemes to fight poverty?' asks Girish Yadav, a political activist of the area.
Development functionaries at the Vikas Bhawan candidly admitted that a lot could have been done to help the crisis-ridden farmers but the prolonged election process acted as a de-motivating factor. For almost three months, no significant work was done in government offices.
However, some feel that the reasons for Kedar's death were more social and psychological than economical.
'Kedar Singh's death is an aberration as the situation is not so bad in our district. His own family's burden proved too much and a small piece of land couldn't really provide a safety cushion. He had borrowed more than he could repay and his crisis was further compounded by the inclement weather,' said village development functionary Roller Singh.
Social activist Netra Pal Singh added: ''As Kedar was the adopted son of his aunt, he had to look after the needs of two households. His aunt's funeral rites were a big burden for which he borrowed some money. Kedar was thus a victim of weather as well as outdated traditions in the villages.
'The weather came as a bolt from the blue. He was shattered and saw no ray of hope from any quarter against the persistent demands for loan repayment from local moneylenders.'
Could Kedar Singh have been saved?
'In our scheme of things, there is no provision for speedy and prompt relief to the victims. The politicians alone can take such decisions. But the election process did not permit them to make any announcements to help the victims of a series of hailstorms just when the crop was about to be harvested,' said an ex-chief - of Barauli Ahir block.
Agricultural economist B.B. Barik said small land holdings could barely support families now.
'The small and marginal farmers are selling their land and migrating to urban areas. Agra city's population has gone up in the past couple of years because the smaller farmers do not find agriculture viable. In Shamshabad and Kheragarh areas, smaller holdings along the roads have been sold to developers of urban townships,' he said.
For the moment the question that is being debated in Bhilavali village is who will provide succour to Kedar's wife Rajan Devi and two daughters - Nirara and Anjali - both under two years.
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