Women in Jalka village in Yavatmal district have been going to Kalavati Bandurkar, ever since Rahul Gandhi’s famous visit to her house last year. They are in need of help; of houses; and of some respite from distress.
It is the plight of these women and that of the countless more hit by the agrarian crisis which Kalavati will project when she contests this Assembly election from Wani. The alliance of Sharad Joshi’s Shetkari Sanghatana and Vidarbha Jan Andolan’s Kishore Tiwari announced her candidature on Saturday.
“I am not standing for elections to enter politics; I am putting forth the issue. Farm suicides should end. Women should get help. That’s what I will say; nothing else. Women from the village come to me and tell me their problems. They say, ‘your needs have been met, what about us?’,” Kalavati told The Hindu, amidst a flurry of phone calls and media interviews.
Mr. Tiwari said fielding Kalavati may not bring victory, but it would put the agrarian crisis in the spotlight.
Over one lakh women have lost their debt-ridden husbands to the farm crisis. Kalavati is one of them. Her husband committed suicide in 2005, leaving her to pay off a huge debt and run a large family of four daughters, two sons and grandchildren.
“She [Kalavati] lost her husband at 50, but there are women in their 20s whose lives have been ruined after their husbands committed suicide. They should be rehabilitated. Suicides must end. When I asked her if she would contest, she said let’s fight,” Mr. Tiwari said.
Price rise devastating
A farm labourer, Kalavati underscored the key issues plaguing agriculture, like the right price for cotton and jowar. “When we take our produce to the market it’s cheap. When it reaches the dealer, the price goes up. How? It’s the middlemen who do it.” Then, the steep rise in prices of tur and sugar had been devastating.
Kalavati has had to tackle a barrage of questions on going against Rahul Gandhi and the Congress. “I am not against Rahul Gandhi. I am not against the government. I am satisfied [with the help I got],” she said.
With the help she received at Rahul’s behest, Kalavati built a home. “The government announces houses, but the panchayats and the middleman don’t give them to you,” she said.
Kalavati’s cup of woes is far from empty. Jealousy and resentment against her abound in her remote village, making her fear for the well-being of her children.
“I won’t go anywhere to campaign. Maybe once or twice in the car. But, I have to be back home by 6 p.m. What if someone murders my children?
“People in the village are maligning me. Let them talk. I am talking for the farmers,” she says.