Anubha Bhonsle is an anchor and Senior Editor of CNN-IBN. She has been a journalist for over 15 years, starting her career with The Indian Express, then moving to be part of Miditech, the Zee Group, subsequently joining New Delhi Television where she was part of the political bureau and an anchor. Anubha joined CNN-IBN at inception, as prime-time anchor and Senior Editor. She is a graduate in Journalism and a post-graduate in social communication. As a Jefferson fellow she researched on America’s political history and the role of gender and race. Anubha and her team have been part of many award-winning projects. Her documentaries on Irom Sharmila and Children of Conflict won appreciation internationally, at the New York Film Festival and the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association. Anubha is a cleanliness freak, loves collecting kettles and admires Pearl Buck. She lives in Delhi with her family.
Lots of things shame me about India (I take great pride in lots as well).
For instance, farmers forced to commit suicide because they wouldn't get institutional lending at a low rate of interest, whereas I with a decent income would be flooded with SMSes from banks or builders to buy a home or a car without collateral and at sometimes rates of interest as low as 6 to 7%.
I also feel squeamish when I try and recollect how many times the Prime Minister of this country has visited the Western world but his trip to Vidarbha in 2006 came after 40,000 farmers committed suicide (according to government data).
I feel distressed sometimes when I read dispatches from Vidarbha where a farmer once remarked, that he wanted to be born as a European cow. India exported food grain at the rate of 5.45 rupees per kilo while selling the same to farmers at 6.40 rupees, he had remarked. The exports were meant for the European cow.
My neck does hang in shame and I feel disconcerted when I read this list of 16 farmers, faceless, statistics, all committed suicide in one day -- Gunwant Raut of Dhotra in Washim, Vithal Lende of Bishur in Nagpur, Amol Matharmare of Mahatoli, Yavatmal, Kisan Patil of Katpur in Amaravati, Sandeepzole of Pahur in Yavatmal, Purshottam Dewase of Kakada in Wardha, Ankush Narayan Thakray of Nimtalai in Nagpur, Suryakant Ganpat Gokare of Aadkoli in Yavatmal, Satish Keshav Dhote of Bhabulgoan in Yavatmal, Vimal Abhiman Kowe of Zuli in Yavatmal, Santosh Janardhan Bhisale of Koyali in Washim, Prahald Nimba Rathode of Mahagoan in Yavatmal, Raobhan Raoji Surpam of Morwa in Yavatmal, Praka Bhaukade of Udi in Akola, Balaji Paikine of Marsud in Yavatmal, Prahal Gawande of Bhadkad in Akola.
The figures sometimes dare my complacency, according to the National Crime Records Bureau data of 2009. More than 2,16,000 farmers killed themselves since 1997. Do the maths yourself as to how many farmers die per day.
Even as politician after politician makes a beeline for the villages of Bhatta Parsaul (yes they are two villages), I am pained sometimes at the realisation that the concern seems to be less and less about the farmer but about who managed to reach the village and who was kept out.
Till the Prime Minister's 2006 Vidarbha visit, Maharashtra's top ministers had never been to a village hit by farmer suicides. Many would have still not visited a suicide hit farm household. That can be a cause for embarrassment for an aam aadmi party.
If that's not enough, how about a glance at the indicators that state governments use to identify a farm suicide. At least 30 clauses on that list that makes a grieving family eligible for compensation. The Shetkari Sangathan has found that hundreds of people were dropped from the farm suicide lists on the ground that they were not farmers because they didn't have land in their names. Women farmers after taking the extreme step don't lend themselves useful even for a compensation to those left behind.
Of course Rahul Gandhi is very well within his right and his personal and political sensibility to be ashamed at what he saw at Bhatta Parsaul. I am just a little puzzled at why this unabashed shame so late. Politics of land as someone remarked to me, depends on two factors - location and dividend. Bhatta and Parsaul fulfill on both those indicators and there is nothing to be ashamed about that.