In Jasaipur village, Gareeba sits at home with her grandchildren, looking over field after field of destroyed crop, with little left to salvage. ‘He went to the field to harvest whatever was left but when he saw the extent of the damage, he fainted there and then,’ she says about her son Chhedua. 50-year old Chhedua was taken to the Tindwari Hospital on 9 April but passed away the next day. He leaves behind a wife and three sons and a loan of 15,000 rupees that he had taken in January this year.
65-year old Bhaiyyaram from Pangara village passed away on 14 April. He had suffered losses last year as well, and had been forced to take a loan of 45,000 rupees from Allahabad Bank. His family said that he had a massive heart attack in the morning and died the same day. His five bighas of land had been completely destroyed by the latest rainfall that hit Banda between 11 and 15 April.
Meanwhile, the state government officially refuses to acknowledge these deaths as ‘suicide’, terming it instead as ‘untimely death.’ For the longest time, when news of these cases started making headlines, the UP government categorically refused to link these deaths with the destruction caused by the rains.
A pall of gloom hangs in Dongri village in another part of Banda district. Many here are landless but farmers and can see no relief in the near future.
‘Everything has gone. Even the wheat we managed to save is of such bad quality that it’ll fetch nothing,’ said a distraught Pachchi. 75-year old Pachchi sat amidst her wheat crop, flattened by the rain. Pachchi and her family had taken land on lease from a local. They plough the land, sow seeds and harvest the crop. In return, the landowner is entitled to half the crop, while Pachchi gets the other half. ‘Who will help us? We eat what we earn and that has been ruined by the rains. At least the landowner is entitled to compensation. What about us? What will we eat?’ she asked.
Even those who are fortunate enough to be eligible for compensation don’t see it as much of a solution, ‘We have 10 bighas of land and the chickpea and arhar crop that we had sown was destroyed. The ruined crop is still there in the fields for everyone to see. The government has given us 4,200 rupees as compensation. Is this a joke?’ said a fuming Savitri who lives in Bhusasi village. ‘You can ask anyone. 10 bighas of land would produce 60,000 rupees worth of produce, but the government thinks that less than one tenth of this will suffice.’
Things are looking grim for farmers in Bundelkhand and agricultural distress is growing exponentially. The disbursement of compensation to affected farmers and relief for landless farmers need to be worked out urgently.
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