Farmer's widow left with tears and tobacco

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Muddguppe village, Mysore district:  While more cases of farmer suicides are being reported across the country, Karnataka seems relatively better equipped this time to handle the agrarian crisis.

Even one distress death in a district like Mysore indicates that something is wrong somewhere for the farmer.

Shobha is just 28 years old, but she has two teenage children, a 10x12 hut, and a debt of Rs one lakh hanging over her young head, all left to her by her late husband, a farmer who drowned himself in the village pond four months ago.

Mahadev Shetty was all of 35; he had a loving wife and two young children. To understand why a young able farmer in a fertile district like this, should think of taking his life, is to understand the essence of farmer suicides in this part of the country.

"He was a very nice boy. In today's age, no one does so much for siblings. But he got his five sisters married and got his brother married as well, purchased a piece of land and built this house. Because of the loan trouble, he killed himself," said M L Raje Gowda, head, Muddgoppe, Gram Panchayat.

It was his reasons for taking the loan that reflect the plight of thousands of farmers like him. Erratic electricity - supplied for only two hours a day in Karnataka - made Mahadev depend only on rains that came too late. Tobacco being a weather-sensitive crop failed, and so the money he got could hardly repay his loans. It was that money that weighed on his mind.

"The night before he woke me up and gave me Rs 5,000 from that trunk. I went out crying. He then said, 'Shobhee, why are you crying?' He had never given me any money, then he did. That's why I had tears in my eyes," said Shobha.

Tears and tobacco will stay with Shobha longer than her husband Mahadev did.

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