Lucknow: Climate change and oppression in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh have combined to worsen hunger and deprivation amongst some of this populous state’s poorest citizens reveals ActionAid’s Hunger Monitoring project.
Three farmers unable to deal with their woes committed suicide during three days of investigations in Jalaun district of Bundelkhand between 12-14 April 2007.
”Government response to the problem is far from adequate. Much stronger intervention by the administration is needed to protect farmers and landless workers and to ensure food security. With the elections over, addressing these issues must be made top priority if Bundelkhand is to combat hunger and avoid further distress suicides,” says Sudipta Kumar Badapanda Regional Manager, ActionAid Lucknow.
“The situation will get worse as summer advances and water shortages become even more acute. The administration must intervene to protect farmers and ensure food security unless they want more deaths on their hands,” he adds.
“The last four to five years have seen an accentuation of adverse weather conditions with farmers being affected by prolonged drought, floods, hailstorms and decrease in annual rainfall”, shares Bharat Dogra, a journalist and researcher with the Hunger Monitoring project.
The research shows that the second factor contributing to the distress of the poor are oppressive social conditions. Local powerful men pose a serious threat coupled by the failure of the administration to provide protection from their oppression.
India is already facing its worst agrarian crisis with growing numbers of indebted farmers turning to suicide. Many small farmers in the Bundelkhand area are in heavy debt to both moneylenders and government banks. And as the weather turns more adverse, chances of paying back loans become even more difficult, adding to higher distress, helplessness and in extreme cases, suicides.
Growing water scarcity poses further problems of survival to people and animals alike. While exposing reasons for distress, research findings also point to possible solutions and safeguards but immediate government action is required. Ways forward include using the rural employment guarantee act to restore traditional water sources, clean and repair tanks, soil and water conservation and safe drinking water for people and animals.
Measures like increasing green cover to help conserve water are already being taken forward by villagers with the support of local voluntary organizations and ActionAid. The crisis echoes the demand for a genuine effort to bring respite to the sufferings of poor farmers. The government must act now or the price of negligence could be lives and livelihood of millions of India’s poorest.