Tendura Village, Banda. At 9 am on 14 May, a farmer in Bundelkhand’s Tendura village climbed up a transmission tower, equipped with a rope. The farmer threatened to jump to his death if the administration refused to give him compensation for losses he had suffered in the wake of unseasonal rainfall. An anxious administration got him down from the tower and promised him compensation within two days. They held to their promise, but Ramnarayan has refused the paltry sum offered.
At his home in the Dalit mohalla of Tendura village, Ramnarayan’s is one of the 25 to 30 households with landholdings between 2.5 and 7 bighas, who have similar stories. ‘I didn’t know what else to do. For 3 consecutive years I have suffered losses and not once have I received any compensation. Sometimes there’s a drought, at other times it rains at the wrong time. Now, after everything, the government has given me 2 cheques – one for 7,200 rupees and another for 1,500 rupees. What are they thinking?’ asks a frustrated Ramnarayan. ‘I now have a loan of 70,000 rupees and am in no condition to repay it. After this year’s loss, we barely have any food at home, and I have 6 children and elderly parents to feed. But I have returned the cheque for 1,500 rupees to the administration. It’s a joke to accept it,’ he said.
In the 3 years that brought him only losses, Ramnarayan tried everything he could. His father owned 7 bighas of land. Ramnarayan additionally leased 11 bighas from another farmer in the village and arranged seeds, irrigation and labour for this land. ‘I thought one good harvest would help me recover losses from the previous year. I even took a loan of 2 lakh rupees from a local moneylender and was hoping that this investment would bring back profits,’ he explained. But with unseasonal rain lashing parts of north India, Ramnarayan’s crop was ruined.
1 bigha of land produces 1 quintal (100 kilo grams) of crop on an average. Ramnarayan had sown mostly wheat and mustard on his land. Even on cautious estimation of the cost of his crop, the loss amounts to almost 1 lakh rupees, for which the government was offering him less than 9,000 rupees.
This year, as he had in years before, Ramnarayan watched the slow wheels of the administration and waited for compensation. When it didn’t come, he was driven to a point where attempting suicide by hanging off a transmission tower seemed to be the only way to alert the authorities to his plight. But his story doesn’t end with dramatic flourish, but with an indignant farmer refusing to accept a pacificatory hand out. The Sub-Divisional Magistrate RK Shrivastava explained, ‘Compensation is provided at the rate of 9,000 rupees per hectare, for irrigated land, and 4500 rupees per hectare for unirrigated land. 1500 rupees is the minimum compensation that is being provided. This is the rate at which Ramnarayan’s losses have been compensated.’
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