Thursday, August 16, 2001, Chandigarh, India



Rising tide of suicides tell another story

The editorial “Suicide by Punjab farmers” (Aug 9) was, to be quite frank, overdue. Since the eighties, the rising input costs and falling grain prices have rapidly pushed Punjab farmers to the wall. Even where the farmer has an economically viable holding his annual income has fallen below that of a Class IV government servant.

In earlier years, a man who could no longer make a go of farming would sell his land, use the money to buy a truck or two and hope to support his family as a transporter. In recent years, the unionisation and economics of trucking have closed even this alternative.

Destitute farmers of UP, Bihar or Madhya Pradesh may head for the nearest city hoping to earn through daily labour, but the Punjab farmer’s pride keeps him from this. The only way out for him is suicide. Unfortunately, while the extreme step takes him beyond all suffering, the act plunges those he leaves behind into even deeper misery. The MASR’s statistics, shocking as they are, cannot tell the full story of the families. Although village social cohesion is greater than what one sees in cities and the will to help the survivors is there, the villages do not have resources to keep the bereaved dependents going.


What are the options for those who find themselves fatherless at an early age? The land, in all probability hypothecated to the arhtiya, goes and with it goes the option of farming. The Army no longer wants sons of Punjab. The youth has little or no education. What are his options? Perhaps he becomes a labourer, a criminal or a terrorist.

The state and the Centre fought an all-out war in Punjab for 15 years. That violence has ceased, allowing the state and the Centre to pretend that all is well in rural Punjab. And, as is the habit with governments, where all is well, nothing needs to be done.

But the rising tide of suicides tells another story: all is NOT well and by neglecting this burgeoning crisis, the state is paving the way for another, perhaps far worse, upsurge of turmoil.


Bonds of love

This is the story of a village which predominantly belongs to farmers. Before partition farmers comprised Hindus (Jats) and Muslims. The number of Muslim families was small. Their houses were in the middle of the village and occupied an important position.

The Muslim families migrated long after partition. Other farming families, i.e. the Jats, arranged their migration very peacefully with complete safety under the supervision of some villagers who followed them perhaps up to the border.

Love between the two communities was so intense that a “stick” given by a Muslim as a symbol of love to the village lambardar was kept with care for a number of years as if it was a piece of treasure. The 5ft stick was fixed with beautiful metal covers on both ends.

The tale of departure of Muslim families, their characteristics and old relations were the subject-matter of stories for a long time. During those days there were no means of entertainment except stories of experiences of the old generation. This was an isolated, remote village having no roads and the nearest railway station was 3 km away.

The village lambardar, to whom the stick was given, was my father and I have fond memories of that time even today.

M. S. PATTAR, Panchkula


JBT teachers

Apropos the news item "JBT teachers selection panel under fire" (July 31). It is a matter of great concern that the certificates of backward class category candidates issued by the district administration were rejected by the representative of GND varsity on the ground that the family income of the candidates was not mentioned on those certificates. As such they were deprived of selection against posts reserved for the backward classes.

The backward class certificates are issued by the district administration after verifying that the family income of the applicant does not exceed Rs 1 lakh per annum. It is also mentioned in the certificate that the applicant does not belong to the creamy layer.

By rejecting the certificates issued by the district administration, the selection panel has done great injustice to the candidates belonging to the backward class.



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