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Sunday Special » Perspective

Posted at: Jun 18, 2017, 2:08 AM; last updated: Jun 18, 2017, 2:08 AM (IST)

Small farmers bear the brunt of unfolding crisis

Parvesh Sharma in Sangrur
Small farmers bear the brunt of unfolding crisis
Dara Singh’s son (left) and daughter (right) with their relatives.
IN Nagra village, Dara Singh’ house has no doors; there is no need of them; his family has lost the strength to let anything in or out. March 23 came in, and took away Dara — forever. Dara apparently expected too much from his one-acre land, and even more from his lenders. Rs 4 lakh stood like a demon confronting his family and the impending marriage of his son and daughter.

There were several like him. They all believed too much in their efforts, their destiny. That’s why preparation for marriages. Today, Dara’s only son Kuldeep (23) has a few snaps of his engagement and some gifts returned by his would-be wife’s side. “I am working hard to get some money for my sister’s marriage,” says Kuldeep, sitting on the floor holding his mass with his rough hands, his fingers as coarse as the bricks and stones he carries at construction sites. He whispers, hardly audible, about his father, about his life ahead, about the evening when he’d sing ‘shabad’ in a local gurdwara. 

“Dara Singh had a debt of Rs 4 lakh. He did not see any hope,” says Balvir Singh, panchayat member. “His family has stated that debt is the reason of his suicide,” said investigating officer Kultar Singh.

Activists say along with Nagra, Moonak, Lehra and Sunam are among scores of villages where small and marginal farmers are in debt trap. Move around in these villages, you’d find stories of suffering and helplessness. Reports of investigations and financial relief seem to have no meaning as affected families appear to look blankly into their present and future.

In Kadial, June 10 came with a rude shock: Jagtar Singh (40) went out to his field in the morning and did not return. Reports later confirmed he had consumed pesticide and died. He was the lone earner in the family; his father and brother died some years back.

There is no male member left in Jagtar’s family. Somebody in the government should help,” says Jagtar’s uncle, Hardev Singh. “When Jagtar’s brother was critically injured in a road accident last year, Jagtar did his best to save his brother, spending around Rs 10 lakh on his treatment,” recalls Hardev. Jagtar couldn’t save his brother. 

“We have 4 acres, but there is no one in the family to sow crops. We can’t give it on lease; encroachers might take over,” says Harmanjeet Kaur, Jagtar’s wife.

Over to Meghwal, where Harjinder Singh (38) died after consuming pesticide on May 15. He carried a debt burden of Rs 30 lakh. He leaves behind his son Yadwinder (16) and his wife Tejinder Kaur.

“My cancer-stricken father-in-law Hakikat Singh died nine years back and my husband had to borrow heavily for his treatment. “He had too much on his shoulders,” sobs Kaur. These families are awaiting monetary help or a debt waiver. In Gharacho village, for instance, the family of 24-years old Satnam Singh has sold around 5 acres, but has not yet cleared the debt. “Only 2 acres are left now. Satnam was too concerned. Two years back, he hanged himself in the house when we were asleep,” says Kulwant Kaur, Satnam’s mother.

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