It is difficult to describe in words what many rural families in drought-stricken regions of Gujarat, particularly Saurashtra, had to go through after a suicide in the family. The situation was particularly grim in the year 2012 when around 40 farmers killed themselves because of crop failure and the resultant shortage of fodder for livestock.
Children in many of these families stopped going to school while the struggle of the deceased farmers’ widows further intensified. Strangely, the toughest part of their daily struggle for survival continues to be something that people in the glittering cities of Gujarat take for granted. It is getting enough drinking water for the family’s needs.
The life of Darshan Vanalia is typical of the cruel transformation that overtook the families of many farmers who committed suicide in the drought-hit regions of the state.
For 12-year-old Darshan, saying ‘Present Ma’am’ to his teacher at school every morning is fast becoming a distant memory. He now starts his day by signing a register to mark his attendance as an apprentice at a diamond polishing unit near Amreli.
Darshan’s father, Devchand Vanalia, a cotton farmer of Chhabadia village in Amreli district, was unable to bear a growing debt burden on him. He took poison and killed himself in August 2012 when he was just 35.
Besides Darshan, there is now his mother, Radha, his elder sister Daxa (15) and his younger brother Jaimesh (10) in their family. The 12-year-old boy has become the eldest male member of his family.
Daxa had to drop out of school because of the growing debt on her family when Devchand was still alive. Devchand’s elder brother, Labhubhai Vanalia, told DNA that life, for them, is now a daily struggle for survival.
“I too have withdrawn my son from school and send him to the diamond polishing unit to earn some money. I want Darshan too to learn the art of diamond polishing as soon as possible so that he can earn for his family,” Labhubhai said.
Women in Darshan’s family are busy most of the day fetching water from nearby farms and wells as the village is supplied water only once every 10 days.
Sagar Pagdhal, a resident of Dundia Phulia village in Amreli district, has just finished his Class 12 board examinations. However, preparing for the exams had proved much more difficult for him than expected.
Last year, he had to leave Amreli town and shift to his village to take care of his mother who was devastated by the suicide of his father, Babubhai Pagdhal, on July 7, 2012. Sagar stayed back in the village after that and prepared for the board exams as best as he could.
The failure of the kharif crop in 2012 had increased the debt burden on Babubhai who eventually ended his life by consuming poison on his farm. He left behind wife Hansaben (50), his mother and his son, Sagar, who was then studying in a school in Amreli town. Sagar told DNA that he had shifted to the village and had prepared for his exams there.
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