A chance reporter, reporting for CNN-IBN from Bhopal. Has reported for the Sun Magazine, Delhi MidDay, Hindustan Times, Asian Age and Sahara Samay in the past.
The English dictionary defines a farmer as someone who operates a farm or cultivates land. Ownership of such land is inconsequential. If sixty-three years after independence this is how you still define a farmer, all those who have moved towards prosperity any little bit, owe a thought to the dying farmers of Madhya Pradesh.
In the last one month crop failure has forced 15 farmers to commit suicide. An equal number, where even death refused to oblige are battling for their lives. The Indian farmer is proving his patriotism in death.
The ruling Indian elite does not want to read the writing on the wall. The farmer who set himself ablaze in a quiet corner could have been used to set an entire city on fire. It is just a matter of orientation. The farmer was killing himself any which ways. And make no mistake the "ruling elite" is a gang that includes all national and regional parties that have either stayed in power or enjoyed the fruits of power by extending outside support to the rulers. The communists included.
This gang is doing everything possible to deflect the situation by creating confusion over who is responsible for these suicides rather than offering a solution to the problem that is forcing the farmers to kill themselves.
The story of Nand Ram Raikwar of district Damoh offers an opportunity to plug the holes in the great Indian ship that is sailing in rough waters. The 2G scam, the commonwealth scam , the Adarsh Scam, the list is endless. There is a scam in every city. Scamsters have taken control of the engine of this ship. Raikwar, through death did his duty by pointing towards the holes that for sure will rock the ship.
He was just 30. A landless OBC with not an inch in his name. But this did not stop him from exploring opportunities. He took 30 acres of land from one Madan Sahu of a neighboring village, with an understanding that the input costs and the returns would be shared in a 50:50 ratio. He further took Rs 10,000 from Madhan Sahu, Rs 15000 from Rishi Patel and Rs 60,000 from Gopal Raikwar to meet the input needs. He sowed pulses. The weather got nasty. He lost his crop. Around noon on December 29 he went to a quiet corner of this 30 acre plot and set himself afire. He died the same night but not before spelling out his reasons for committing suicide on camera.
The government response was fast. Within hours, SDM, MK Shrivastava said on camera, he was mentally challenged. The next day the government changed its response a bit, he was not a farmer. Shivraj Singh Chauhan has all rights to hate English but the meaning of "kisan" was available in the Hindi dictionary as well. After five days the SDM spoke again. This time again on camera saying he never said Raikwar was mentally challenged.
Raikwar was not the only one to suffer the weather. 14 others have killed themselves within a month. And in almost all the cases the first reaction from the government, again on camera, has been that they were not farmers. Why? Because they did not own any land. No one seems to represent these landless people.
Now politics has taken over. The Congress is organizing dharnas. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauihan has announced he will also sit on a dharna on the 13th of February because the Centre is not providing any relief. His focus is money.
And if it is pointless to talk about the real issue, this one might get out of hand really fast. Every hungry stomach is a potential human bomb.