‘Cotton for my Shroud' screened recently depicted the lives of cotton farmers of Vidarbha

As the documentary ‘Cotton for my Shroud' opens, we see a car with two former news-journalists Nandan Saxena and Kavita Bahl drive towards Vidarbha region in Maharashtra.

“If India lives in its villages, what kind of life it is,” Kavita wonders as the audience gathered at Goethe Zentrum sat in stunned silence watching the scenes unfold for the next 90 minutes. It is the moving story of cotton farmers, who have committed suicide and their families they have left behind. Vidarbha region has 11 districts where agriculture is the main stay of life. 2006 was the worst year where ‘life is reduced to a mere statistic'.

The introduction of BT cotton proved to be a disastrous affair in farmers' lives as it opened the doors of poverty, debt and suicides. ‘‘BTlagaana beti ka shaadi karna, ghar banana…' was the advertisement which attracted farmers to BT cotton,” a villager recalls. The camera zooms into the face of an old man whose son had committed suicide. “He went to the market to make wedding purchases for my grandson's wedding. The shopkeepers refused to give him credit and he embraced death,” the father tells with no expression.

Interestingly, cotton was called as the white gold of Vidarbha around 30 years ago when gold and cotton were held in equal stature. Now, the scene has changed dramatically. In the next scenes, we travel to Dorli in Maharashtra where ‘Dorli is up for sale!'

“We want to sell our houses, our cattle, what ever we have, so that we can settle down in a city. Even a rickshaw puller in a city earns Rs. 50 and eats twice a day,” an angry villager says.

Nandan Saxena says, he is ‘heart broken. What we have reduced our villages to.' We meet a family where a farmer drank pesticide as he couldn't repay the loan of Rs. 27,500, another Anganwadi teacher (whose husband has committed suicide) talks about her life after her husband's death.

The documentary also covers a session organised by Tehelka on the suicides of cotton farmers. The film, won the gold for script at the IDPA awards 2011 in Mumbai. The documentary was held as part of Point of View, a joint forum of Goethe Zentrum and Alliance Francaise of Hyderabad and Documentary Circle of Hyderabad.

A panel discussion was held after the screening of the documentary.

The panellists included eminent scientist Dr. P.M. Bhargava and Dr. Gautam Pingle, director, Centre for Public Policy, ASCI.