This Article is From Nov 08, 2016

Political Parties Come Knocking At The Doors Of Drought-Hit Bundelkhand

Across Bundelkhand, farmers have been hit by debts maounting over years of drought.

Lalitpur, BUndelkhand: For the first time in five years, the well in Bundelkhand farmer Ram Prakash Kushwaha's field is full.

This is good news for Mr Kushwaha's masoor dal crop, which needs just one cycle of water. Over the last five years, it failed four times because the drought did not leave even minimum water for irrigation.

A harvest early next year could mean an income of Rs 2 lakh for Mr Kushwaha, even after paying the Rs 1 lakh rent for this 12-acre field.

But successive crop failures mean his debts have accumulated to Rs 3 lakh -- an amount even a good crop will not be able to repay. "I'll get some money from the crop. But if there is another drought, I won't know what to do," he said.

Across Bundelkhand, lakhs of farmers like Mr Kushwaha are in debt, hit by years of drought.

With state elections just a few months away, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's Uttar Pradesh yatra last month focussed on farmers, especially in Bundelkhand. The party, a marginal player in Uttar Pradesh for over two decades, had promised plenty of sops.

A good harvest will mean some money for Ram Prakash Kushwaha, but he has a loan of Rs 3 lakh to repay.

"I promise farm loan waivers within 10 days of coming to power," Mr Gandhi said in his address in Bundelkhand's Mahoba district.

At Lalitpur's Bachilapur village, where 45-year-old farmer Rup Lal committed suicide 3 years ago, crushed by mounting debt, his 19-year-old son filled up a Congress form last month giving details of the family's debt.

"I don't believe them but I did it anyway, hoping against hope that something can happen," said Mr Singh.

It is not just the Congress though. In its Parivartan Yatra which started from Bundelkhand on Sunday, the BJP, besides speaking of national issues like surgical strikes also claimed it was the go-to party for farmers.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, a former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, said, "If you give us a government in Uttar Pradesh, we will solve Bundelkhand's water problem within a decade."

The ruling Samajwadi Party claims building ponds and small dams and giving relief to drought hit farmers in Bundelkhand has been a priority.

But local activist Sanjay Singh, who claims 4,000 farmers committed suicide in 15 years and farmers' debts go up to well over Rs 20,000 crore in the region, says he is not convinced.

"Netas are wooing farmers now because it is a huge segment vote wise for the elections. Otherwise, not much work has happened on the ground," he said.