Banda, Uttar Pradesh: Around 30 farmers from the Ela village of Mahua block of the Naraini tehsil in Banda district of Uttar Pradesh got together on November 7 to put on record the destruction of their entire paddy crop due to a disease, which broke out after Diwali. Many of them were small and marginal farmers, with land holdings of no more than two to three bighas. They had leased land and invested over Rs 10,000 on the season’s crop. The farmers, enraged at this crop failure in a year where the drought had already put tremendous pressure on their households, demanded that the additional district magistrate (ADM) take cognisance of this and give compensation.
Shivkalia, a farmer from the village, said that the crop has been diseased, and she has nothing in her house to eat, except some wheat grain. Another farmer, Shankarlal Kushwaha, said that despite hard labour, irrigation, fertilisers and seeds bought at government shops at government determined prices, there was nothing left of his crop. “Who knows if anyone will hear us out,” he says, “We will be forced to eat dirt and stones, what else?”
The farmers claim that the paddy crop was attacked by what is locally known as the papaha disease, which has been a destructive element in the area for decades, and often a factor that pushes farmers in the region to take their own lives.
The ADM, S.L. Sonkar, accepted the petition presented by the farmers and said that there will be an investigation into the cause of crop failure and the disease.
As if further validation for the appalling situation of farmers in the region was required, barely two days later, in Baberu block, Dayaram, a 48-year old farmer was found dead in his fields. Dayaram had apparently taken a loan for Rs 40,000 recently. This was the second such death in the district in less than ten days – on October 27, a young farmer, Anuj Vajpayee from Badokhar Khurd block took his own life, barely 20 days after receiving a loan waiver certificate from the administration.
All this, barely two weeks after the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath visited Chitrakoot, adjoining Banda, and made multiple promises to voters in this drought-hit and developmentally bereft region. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s promises of loan waivers to address agricultural distress and the acute financial and social situation of farmers in this area has been an issue of building resentment. It has been touted as a crude election strategy, the implementation of which has been ludicrous and has failed to addressed the very pervasive issues that farmers in the region face. With the harvests of the second season of the year failing, farmers who have struggled to counter the effects demonetisation had on their crops, are now left with little else but fury and empty stomachs and grain stores.
This piece first appeared on Khabar Lahariya.
Khabar Lahariya is a rural, video-first digital news organisation with an all-women network of reporters in eight districts of Uttar Pradesh.