Hyderabad: Swapna was returning home from her first day at work as a farm hand when we reached Vangapadu village in Warangal district. The first year B.Com student told us she had spent all day applying fertiliser to cotton saplings in a field some three kilometers away. The Rs 100 she earned will pay for the monthly bus pass she uses for college. So on weekdays, the 19-year-old will attend college. On weekends, she will work on farms as labour.
Less than three weeks ago, Swapna's father, Narsingula Bhikshapati, killed himself, after cotton seeds that he planted failed, not once or twice but thrice, because it did not rain. Some 30 farmers have committed suicide just in Warangal district since June this year, unable to survive the impact of an erratic monsoon on their land and their family.
Bhikshapati was 45. Swapna says as long as he was alive, he did not allow her or her brother to work on the farm, determined that they should study and lead a vastly different life.
"My father really struggled to educate us. I studied in government school. To pay the fees for my brother, was a big challenge. After class XII, I said I would drop out. But my father wanted me to continue, come what may,'' says Swapna.
Swapna's younger brother Suresh is studying in tenth class in a private English medium school.
"I want to become a software engineer. But my father died. I can't study properly and reach my goal. My mother and sister cry everyday. My mother is also a heart patient. Last year my father spent two lakh rupees for medical expenses after my mother got a heart attack."
In India's youngest state, Telangana, founded just two months ago, more than 100 farmer suicides have been recorded. Families of farmers who committed suicide have received no assistance from the new government, not even a house call from an official as an exercise in sympathy. This despite a government order, famous as GO 421, that the ruling party Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) had spoken strongly advocated before the elections. The GO, initiated in 2004, mandates that a three-member committee of officials must visit the family of every indebted farmer who commits suicide and ensure that the family receives 1.5 lakh rupees as compensation along with an allowance for children's education.
The utter desperation of Swapna's mother makes her fall at my feet. Her elderly grandmother also follows suit. "Please bring help for my children from somewhere, anywhere," she says. "I have to spend Rs 1500 for medicines just to stay alive,'' she says. The grandmother had in fact advanced all her life's savings to her son-in-law last year, so he could buy inputs for the crop last year. So there is nothing for the elderly couple to fall back on either.
Food, medicines, college and school fees...mathematics of life here is profound, an equation that the family struggles to re-work every day.
"The crops failed the last three years. Even paddy, because of excess rains last year. This time we sowed cotton so many times, but it did not grow. The situation was really very bad. So much so that we didn't even eat properly several days," says Swapna, breaking down.
There is not even a framed photo of Bhikshapati in the house, something that is traditionally done before completing the 10-day rituals after a death. "That costs Rs 500 but we can't afford it right now. So the photo is in the studio,'' Swapna explains, her voice breaking as she explains.
To help Swapna, please send cheques or demand drafts in the name of:
W/o Narsingula Bhikshapati
Account No: 346802010013375
Union Bank of India,
D No. 8-11-2, Jayaprakash Narayan Road,
Warangal, Andhra Pradesh
For online transactions:
IFSC code UBIN0534684
MICR code: 505026001
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