Sunday, May 01, 2011

Farmers in Distress

He ploughs on despite setbacks

Rishikesh Bahadur Desai

FARMER'S PLIGHT: Bheemrao Manigempure and his son Shivasharanappa ploughing their field at Kadlabad village in Bhalki taluk.
Bidar: "Anyone else would have hanged himself by now," says Bheemrao Manigempure, a small farmer of Kadlabad in Bhalki taluk. Poverty has forced him and his son Shivasharanappa to play the role of bullocks, which they do not have, to plough his fields. His daughter-in-law Saraswati follows them, sowing, de-weeding or adding fertilizer and pesticides. The family has a huge loan to repay.

Bheemrao owns less than two acres of land. The greyish-black soil does not seem very fertile, and seeds sown in two consecutive seasons failed to sprout. There is no irrigation facility in the village and he depends on the rains.

He usually grows black gram and green gram and toor. This year, he managed o harvest some black gram, which he had to barter for jowar and other foodgrains with the local agriculture commission agent.

Bheemrao has eight mouths to feed. His wife, Uttambai, works as a labour in the fields of other farmers. Shivasharanappa and Saraswati have four children. Two sons work at a roadside hotel and earn Rs. 20 each a week. The other son and daughter attend the government primary school, mainly for the midday meal.

Being non-literate, they are unaware of welfare schemes of the Government. Bheemrao goes to moneylenders because no commercial bank will give him a loan. He borrowed Rs. 10,000 to spray pesticide for the toor crop four years ago. He could not repay it on time and now his debt has risen to Rs. 55,000. Kadlabad lies on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border, which is the driest part of Bidar district. Rainfall here is less than 30 mm.

Bheemrao, who is in his 70s, is emotionally attached to his ancestral property and will not let his son sell it to set up a roadside paan shop or move to a city to seek employment.

Bheemrao is not the only farmer faced with this fate. There are at least five such families that cannot afford to buy bullocks to plough their fields. None of them had heard of the government scheme in which cattle are given to families living below the poverty line at subsidised prices.

When contacted, Agriculture Minister and district in-charge Bandeppa Kashempur said he would visit Kadlabad after the Assembly session. "We will see what we can do to help them. Bidar is one of the five districts in the State where the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is being implemented," he said.

Asked why he still cultivates the land even though he might not get a crop this year, he smiled and said, "We are all God's children. Do you think he will disown us just like that?"

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