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A Farmer’s Suicide That Could Have Been Prevented

By Bharat Dogra

In a country that has already heard about so many suicides by farmers, perhaps the recent suicide by one more farmer will not attract much attention, but nevertheless the extremely distressing story of the recent death of a young farmer Ramnihor—in Baragaon village (Baberu block) of Banda district, Uttar Pradesh, must be told.

As Sukhdev, the elderly and ailing father of Ram Nihor, says—for a long time my son had been telling me, had been telling his mother and others that I have to die. He had already made two suicide attempts. Once he tried to take poison. Somehow he survived. Then he tried to hang himself and again he could be saved. I was alarmed and tried time and again to speak to him for long hours trying to get the thought of dying out of his head. His mother also spoke to him regarding this, and of course his wife spoke too.

Sukhdev wiped his tears and continued—Then I said to myself—may be the words of family members do not carry so much weight. So I summoned those relatives who are widely respected. They also tried to convince him a lot. He nodded out of respect but it appears the turmoil within him never subsided.

What was it that was troubling Ram Niroh so much, so badly?

His father suffered from a serious stomach ailment and needed surgery. His elder brother Basant too was not keeping well. So Ramniroh considered himself more to be responsible for managing family affairs.

Responsible he was and willing to work hard, but he was saddled with a great burden—a loan which the family just did not have the resources to pay back. Sukhdev asserts that the original loan was just around Rs. 100,000 or so but over the years, adding compound interest, this had escalated to closer to about Rs.500,000. With a land holding of about 3 acres of land, this family just did not have the capacity to pay back such a loan, particularly when they were confronted with frequent medical expenses.

However the path of suicide that Ramnihor chose to get out of his feelings of hopelessness has only added to the woes of his family members and particularly his elderly parents. His mother appeared to be in such extreme distress that it was extremely difficult to ask her anything. Still she told haltingly that Ramnihor has left behind a small daughter. Ramnihor’s elder brother Basant who is not in good health has two children. Hence they are an eight member family now whose subsistence is extremely difficult as the most capable member of this family has committed suicide.

Can some relief be obtained for this family from the government? Such relief has not been difficult to get in recent times but nevertheless an effort should of course be made. An additional complicating factor in this case is that the land was not in the name of Ramnihor , it is in the name of his father Sukhdev.

Ramnihor thought and discussed a lot about how to get the family out of this debt, but he could not find any means of doing so, and he could not find anyone who could give him a sense of hope.

Could things have taken a more hopeful turn if someone had provided timely hope to Ramnihor? What sort of promise or help would have given him relief?

Clearly there should be places—some sort of a farmer distress and relief centre—where those farmers in such distressing conditions can go to discuss the possibilities of debt-relief or benefiting from any of the government’s numerous development schemes. Officials in such a centre can recommend if not decide some sort of special relief in such cases, or else they can make available additional counselling, anything to give hope and confidence to someone in deep despair. If such facilities had existed, perhaps Ramnihor would have been alive today.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Man over Machine and India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food.

9 June 2024

Source: countercurrents.org

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