Do you know that, on average, 47 farmers have been committing suicide every single day in the past 16 years in our shining India — the next economic power, progressive with nine per cent growth?
Last month, on March 5, Friday evening, when Bangalore's watering holes were getting filled up, when all the DJs were blaring out deafening music, when we were busy discussing India's chances at the World Cup, sitting in CCDs and Baristas — just 100 km away from Bangalore, Swamy Gowda and Vasanthamma, a young farmer couple, hanged themselves, leaving their three very young children to fend for themselves or, most likely, die of malnutrition.
Why did they do it? Were they fighting? No. Were they drunkards? No. Did they have incurable diseases? No! Then WHY? Because they were unable to repay a loan of Rs 80,000 (a working IT couple's one month salary? 2-3 months EMI?) for years, which had gradually increased to Rs. 1.2 lakh. Because they knew that now they would never be able to pay it back. Because they were hurt. Hurt by our government which announced a huge reduction in import duty for silk in this year's budget (from 30 per cent to 5 per cent).They were struggling silk farmers and instead of help from the government, they get this! Decrease in import duty means the markets will now be flooded with cheap Chinese silk (as everything else!) and our own farmers will be left in the lurch.
On average, 17,000 farmers have been committing suicide every year, for the past 15 years on the trot. Can you believe it? Most of us wouldn't know this fact. Why? Because, our great Indian media, the world's biggest media, are not interested in reporting this! Why? Because they are more interested in covering fashion week extravaganzas. They are more interested in ‘why team India was not practising when Pakistanis were sweating it out in stadium on the eve of the match?' They are more interested in Poonam Pandey.
The media are supposed to be the third eye of democracy and also called the fourth estate, but now they have become real estate. Pure business.
So any attention from the media is out of the question. Who is left then? The government? But we all know how it works. The other day, I was passing by Vidhan Soudha in Bangalore and happened to read the slogan written at the entrance, “Government work is god's work”. Now I know why our government has left all its work to god!
Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa announced plots for all the players. But land? In Bangalore? You must be kidding, Mr. C.M.. So he retracts and now wants to give money. But where will it come from? Taxes, yours and mine. Don't the poor farmers need the land or money more than those players who are already earning in crores?
What is happening in our country is not different from Nero's party. We, the middle-class-young-well-earning-mall-hopping-IPL-watching and celebrating-junta are Nero's guests enjoying at the cost of our farmers. Every budget favours the already rich. More exemptions are being given to them at the cost of grabbing the land of our farmers in the name of SEZs, decrease in import duties in the name of neo-liberal policies, increase in the loan interest rates if the product is not worth lakhs and crores. Yes, that's what we are, Nero's guests!
I'm not against celebrations. I'm not against cricket. I'm not against World Cup. I would be the first person to scream, celebrate and feel proud of any of India's achievements but, only if all fellow countrymen, farmers, villagers also stand with me and cheer; only if they do not take their own lives ruthlessly, only if there is no difference between interest rates for a Mercedes and a tractor. That would be the day I also zoom past on a bike, post-Indian win, with an Indian Flag in hand and screaming Bharat Mata Ki Jai. But no, not today. Not at the cost of my feeders. Until then, this is what I say. To hell with your malls. To hell with your IPL. To hell with your World Cup. And to hell with your celebrations.
(The writer's email is: naren.singh.shekhawat@ gmail.com)