Pokhari village in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district continues to reel under a spate of farmer suicides. From 1998 till now, nothing seems to have changed
A phone call informing him about the twin suicides of his father and older brother changed 23-year-old Sunil Wagh’s life forever. On September 28, his father Shivaji, 55, and brother Baliram, 28, hung themselves, Shivaji at his farm and Baliram at his home in Pokhari village in Buldhana district.
Twelve farmers have committed suicide in this village since over a decade and three in the last six months.
When Sunil reached home, he found all the villagers gathered there. With the burden of running his household creeping on him, Sunil consoled his mother and 18-year-old sister Pallavi. His brother Baliram had locked the house from inside before hanging himself.
“I didn’t know what to do,” says Sunil. His uncle, Dagdu Wagh says,
“Shivaji had sold one acre from his five acres last year to get money for Pallavi’s admission in a CBSE pattern school in Buldhana”.
In the rest of the five acres he was cultivating soyabean but was not able to get any profit. Sometimes even the input cost couldn’t be recovered.”
“My father never had a dispute with anyone in the village. He was an introvert but never showed his frustration to us,” says Pallavi, who studies in Class 12 in a school in Buldhana and aims to be a doctor.
“On the day of his suicide he looked at me, smiling for some time before leaving home,” says Shivaji’s wife, Shobha. Shivaji had hung himself from the ceiling of a shed in his farm.
Baliram had suffered a handicap in one hand but he used to assist his father in his farm work. “Baliram did say some times that he felt bad about his inability to contribute to the family income but my father never let him feel that way,” says Sunil.
The Wagh family has a history of suicide. Shivaji Wagh’s younger brother Pralhad committed suicide in 2000. After three years, another brother Narayan Wagh killed himself. Sunil’s cousin Kailas Wagh hanged himself in March this year just a day before his marriage.
Dattu Tekade, neighbour of the Wagh family says, “Kailas was not able to fulfil his family’s basic needs with whatever he was getting from his three acres.”
After Kailas Wagh’s suicide, the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana (SSS) and the then Tehsildar of Buldhana Rural, Suresh Bagale had adopted this village.
Twenty days before Shivaji and Baliram ended their lives, Vishal Bhagwan Jadhav, a 24-year-old Dalit farmer in Pokhari, consumed pesticide in his field. Father of two-year-old Salony, Vishal Wagh had sold one acre of his six acres to buy a Mahindra tractor.
“Vishal was under a lot of pressure because he was getting constant reminders from Mahindra Company for defaulting on instalments and the dealer had also confiscated his tractor trolley,” says Vishal’s father Bhagwan Jadhav.
“Vishal was popular but a few days before his death he used to curse himself for deciding to stay in the village and making farming as his livelihood,” says Dagadu Wagh. “But he never showed his frustration to me or his wife,” says Vishal’s mother Kantabai.
Pokhari witnessed a farmer’s suicide for the first time in 1998 when Baban Sitaram Ekade killed himself. Since 1998, apart from five suicides in the Wagh family, Bharat Deosingh Ekade, Sanjay Kisan Ekade (cousin of Deputy Sarpanch Pandurang Ekade), Vikram Anandrao Pawar, Kisan Ganpat Ekade, Sanjay Tulasiram Ekade, apart from Vishal Jadhav, have killed themselves.
According to Deputy Sarpanch Pandhurang Ekade, out of 12 suicides, 10 farmers were below the age of 40 years and none of them had any addictions.
“Fifteen farmers attempted suicide in all these years but we were able to save them in time,” he adds. When asked about the reason of these suicides, Gajanan Amadabadkar, a leader of the SSS, says, “It’s simple. The farmers have not been able to recover the production cost of what they are cultivating. Most of the farmers of Pokhari cultivate soyabean. Still you can see such high number of suicides. Conditions would have been worse had they been growing Bt cotton.”
Ravikant Tupkar, president of the Youth wing of the SSS, says, “We did adopt the village but there have been more suicides after that. It’s a cycle of suicide and we will now focus on the young men from Pokhari. It’s a long process. We have to tell them that suicide is not the solution.”