Bundelkhand farmer committed suicide. Now, his son wants to do the same

Farmer committed suicide: Ratan Singh Rajput, 60, was under a debt of Rs 11 lakh and there was pressure to pay up. He had lost his urad crop owing to heavy rain. Unable to take so much stress, he ended his life

Bundelkhand farmer committed suicide. Now, his son wants to do the same

Ratan Singh Rajput, 60 years, committed suicide on October 6 by consuming pesticide. Fifteen days prior to him committing suicide, he was notified by staff from the tractor finance company to pay up Rs 80,000 by October 3. Meanwhile, he was served yet another notice by the bank to deposit his Kisan Credit Card (KCC). Just a few days back, he had lost his entire produce owing to heavy rains. Distressed, he ended his life.

Now his helpless son, Gabbar Rajput, 25, wants to end his life.

Ratan Singh, who lived in Erawani village of Virdha block, 17 km South-West from Bundelkhand's Lalitpur district, was under the KCC debt of the bank besides the loan he had taken from acquaintances both of which amounted up to over Rs 10 lakh. He had worked hard looking after and caring for his urad crop as he had hoped that the good crop will be able to repay some of the loan and instalment on his tractor. Excessive rains, however, quashed his crops and hopes.

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He had bought the tractor about one-and-a-half-year ago feeling confident that he would be able to repay the bank loan by farming well. Mentioning this his only son, Gabbar, said: "Rs 2 lakh KCC under my father's name, Rs 3.5 lakh KCC under my mothers', a tractor loan of Rs 4.4 lakh and personal loans from acquaintances of about Rs 1 lakh makes for about a total of Rs 11 lakh as debt. We had hoped that a good crop of urad shall ease the repayment, but the last rain has left us undone and ruined."

Like Rattan Singh, many farmers in the district had sown urad in over 1.8 lakh hectares of land which had thrived well until the last shower. Farmers had used weedicides, pesticides, growth tonics and guarded the crops day-night against strays. But the unforeseen rains that occurred in the last week of September and continued till first week October ruined the seed crops like urad and til. When Urad pods began dropping on the ground rotten, many farmers raked the crops while others left it for the strays. It would be greatly challenging for these farmers to overcome their current loss to start cultivating another crop. Famers have no alternative but to live and work trapped in the debt like Gabbar Singh Rajput.

"I think I may have to follow papa's footprints because I won't be able to survive the crushing debt on my head. When Papa was around, I was carefree, but with him gone I feel all alone and I doubt that I would be able to repay the debt at all," said Gabbar Singh.

Sheelan Dulaiya, wife of farmer Ratan Rajput, who committed suicide by consuming pesticideSheelan Dulaiya, wife of farmer Ratan Rajput, who committed suicide by consuming pesticide

The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) which records the data pertaining to suicides in India had estimated that 11,172 farmers in 2013, 12,360 farmers in 2014 and 12,602 in 2015 had ended their lives. These included 8,002 farmers and 4,595 agricultural labourers.

"Previously, the crop was good; due to incessant rains, urad got spoilt," said Gabbar, adding, "Papa was disturbed for the past 15 days, he told that he'd sell off two acres to offset the loan. However, he couldn't find a buyer and, in the meanwhile, received bank's recovery letter. Distraught under debt, he ended his life by consuming pesticide. Now I have the burden of the same debt above me. Six acres yielded 2.5 quintal urad, and the rest lies perished upon the fields, it would not be adequate to even cover up its reaping cost. The entire production cost was Rs 65,000, spoiling of urad has exacerbated our loss."

Like Gabbar Singh, many farmers in the district are caught in the debt trap not knowing how to repay the loans or educate their children or prepare for the rabi crop farming. Gabbar said: "It is beyond me now to repay it, the government must step in to rescue us so that our families remain supported." Together Gabbar Singh, his mother Sheelan Dullaiya and father Ratan have a 12-acre land.

Gabbar Singh (right) and his family have burden to pay loans worth Rs 11 lakh Gabbar Singh (right) and his family have burden to pay loans worth Rs 11 lakh

"Had the crop been there, we would have repaid by selling it off, but no field showed any urad. My husband constantly worried about repayment of the loans when the failed crops, bank notice and tractor instalment bewildered him," said his wife, 60.

"With a yield of mere two-and-a-half sack of urad, how can we repay anything. We have but one son, how will he earn? The fields are strewn with no good rotten crops. We are sinking in debt. Failed crops have taken away my husband from me," she added.

As per the records of the Agricultural Department dated September 30, 2019, the district had 2,61,776 hectare cultivated pulse and oil crops of Kharif season out of which the biggest area (4.46827 lakh acres) was for urad. Due to excessive rains, Lalitpur farmer plunged further in debt instead of being relieved of it.

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