Holding a framed photo of her late husband, 34-year-old Sundari Srivastava, a domestic help from Maharashtra, sits among a crowd of over a thousand farmers and their wives, protesting for the complete waiver of farmer loans.
“My husband never showed the emotional stress he was going through because of the loans that were mounting on him. He was happy after the harvest but we never got the prices to pay off the private money lenders,” Ms. Srivastava said.
Sitting alongside a dozen other women who had lost their husbands to the harvest season this year, Ms. Srivastava said: “It is either bad harvest or bad prices for crops, both ways the farmers are dying.”
“The attitude of the government shows how little they value the lives of the poor. We are mere vote banks for them. Every five years we vote hoping that our problems will be solved, but the situation only gets worse,” she added.
The widows were part of the first ‘Kisan Mukti Sansad’ where an all-women’s mock parliament was conducted at the Parliament Street on Monday.
Madhumati was only 23-year-old and with a six-month-old son when her husband, Tukaram Godse, hung himself in the farm where he was working as a tenant farmer. In his suicide note, he wrote that he was not able to make ends meet, especially with a new member in the family.
‘I blamed myself’
“For at least a year I could not look at my child’s face. I had dropped him at my parents’ house and would work on the fields to earn a living. I had started blaming myself and our child for my husband’s death,” she said.
Now she has started working for a small NGO in her village, which works to create awareness about farmer suicides and also works towards encouraging farmers and labourers to turn to nationalised banks for loans instead of private money lenders.