They sacrifice the most precious thing on earth – time, and also their social life in the United States for the distressed farmers and their tormented families thousands of miles away in their homeland.
Concern is what these five software professionals have for the poor peasants who have taken their lives unable to bear growing debts and crop failures. The concern translated into “I4farmers”, an organisation that is now providing a ray of hope for the families of farmers who committed suicide in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Unlike many Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) they don’t believe in handing over a cheque and forget, but spend a few weeks with farmers and infuse confidence that the society cares for them. “We try to get to the root cause of a farmer’s death in each adopted family and give social security to the wife and children,” says Srinivas Ranabothu, software professional in New Jersey and one of the founder-members of I4farmers.
The five-member group consisting of Suresh Ediga, Laxmi, Srinivas Karturi and Srinivasa Sadhu apart from Srinivas Ranabothu started the organisation with an aim to stop at least five suicides. They made certain impact in several villages purely through their personal effort. These technocrats have taken a totally different approach in providing assistance.
As a short-term measure, they are sponsoring the education of 34 children in Warangal, 64 in Mahabubnagar and 12 in Nalgonda. As a part of mid-term assistance they have adopted five villages in Talamadugu mandal in Adilabad district trying to make the tribal farmers adopt age-old farming practices. “The root cause of suicides in these villages was the farmers moving to Bt Cotton and neglecting the food crops like rice and jowar. Cotton deprived them of their food stock for the entire year and also increased dependence on middlemen thus driving them to suicides,” says Srinivas.
So they now brought them back to food crops and are encouraging them to use non-BT seeds for commercial crops. “We are training them in preparing manure and will ensure that the produce is procured with good market price,” says Srinivas who hails from Mamillagudem in Mothe mandal of Nalgonda district.
Among the long-term measures, they want to concentrate on introducing alternative livelihood as well and bring in best farming practices. Adoption of Cheryal mandal in Warangal and Gajwel in Medak represented by the Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao is in the offing with the help of Raithu Swarajya Vedika.
Support comes from NRI friends. “NRIs donate for various social and cultural activities but they are socially distant from the farmers. We made them realise that donating to farmers was important. We motive them to spend some time with the distressed families during their annual visits to India. Participatory role will bring in and sustain the assistance,” argues Srinivas, who along with his team spends at least 20 hours a week on their initiatives sacrificing their family time on week-ends and invites from friends. The team members reaffirm their commitment to educate farmers so that they come back to traditional methods and get better price for their produce.