Jaipur: It’s been almost two years since the suicide of Sohan Lal Kadela, a debt-ridden farmer from Thakri village in Raisinghnagar block of Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar district, drew media attention on the account of his suicide note in which he had held chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot responsible for his suicide. Even today, his family is struggling to repay the accumulating debt amounting to approximately three lakh rupees.
For his eight bighas of land in the district, Kadela had sought two crop loans of around Rs 2 lakh each from the Syndicate bank in Raisinghnagar. Due to the low crop yield for two successive years, it became impossible for him to discharge the loan.
When the Congress government announced to waive off the loans of the state farmers after coming to power in the 2018 assembly polls and later iterated the promise during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Kadela had hoped that the loan waiver would put an end to his problems.
While ending his life by suicide, Kadela blamed the Gehlot government for not implementing its promise of waiving farm loans from the nationalised banks.
In his note, Kadela had written, “Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot are responsible for my death. No one else shall be blamed for it. Within ten days after the general elections, they promised to waive farmers’ debt [from nationalised banks]. What happened to their promise? I request that my body not be burnt until the debt of all brothers [farmers] is waived.”
As the matter grabbed headlines, the Gehlot government had assured that it’s committed towards securing a better future for the farmers.
“Whenever a person dies or kills themselves, it’s absolutely unacceptable to us,” Pilot had said in a press conference that time.
However, in January this year, Syndicate Bank served Kadela’s family a notice warning them to pay the debt or else be ready for a strict action that would be taken against them by the bank for recovering the loan amount.
After Kadela’s death, his family, consisting of his mother Tili Devi, wife Ganga (38), elder daughter Minakshi (19) and younger son Ghanshyam (16), has been facing extreme hardship in order to meet even their basic expenses.
The only source of income for the family is his mother’s pension worth Rs 1,000 per month under a government pension scheme and his wife’s employment under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA).
To add to the miseries, last month, Kadela’s ailing mother passed away. The family is now worried about the fall in their income which came through her pension.
His daughter Minakshi says that since the last two years, they have not been able to cook meals twice a day.
“We cook dal every day and eat it for the whole day,” she says. “Even, if we wish, we can’t afford to have two different meals a day.”
“Earlier, father used to bring fruits at home but it’s not possible for us to buy them now,” she added.
Minakshi is moved by the extreme step of her father. After his suicide, she decided to join the Indian Police Service. She even joined a coaching centre, but later due to poor financial condition at home, she could not manage the fees.
“It [coaching] required an annual fees of Rs 6,000,” says Minakshi. I had paid Rs 1,000 and the centre had allowed me to pay the remaining fees in instalments but after the lockdown, there was no earning and I had to drop out.”
Minakshi had expected that her grandmother’s pension would enable her to pay the coaching fees. However, her demise had left her in lurch.
“I received a call from the coaching centre asking me to join again and pay the fees later but I’ve no means to pay it anytime soon,” she added.
Kadela’s family also claims that the government has yet not paid any compensation in lieu of acquiring his land under the Bharatmala project.
Post Kadela’s suicide, the Gehlot government has only been denying that he was under any debt. “I’ve been told that the person was not actually in debt. But whatever the matter, someone has died,” Pilot had said.
However, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) in Sri Ganganagar has staged protests to remind the Congress government of its promise to waive the farm loans in the state.
“This government seems to have forgotten about the farmers in the state,” said Kalu Johari, an All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader in Sri Ganganagar.
Over the past few years, loan waiver has become an election gimmick in Rajasthan. During the previous Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government, a one-time waiver of up to Rs 50,000 for small and marginal farmers who had defaulted on short-term loans from cooperative banks, was done in the run up to the assembly polls in 2018.
Later, the Ashok Gehlot government also promised a two-phase waiver. First, to waive loans of cooperative and development banks and second, of the loans taken from commercial and rural banks.
While the first phase of the waiver as promised by the Gehlot government has been effected, the second phase, which constitutes the major chunk of farm loans, is not yet implemented.