We now eat only once a day, says Marathwada farmer Sumitrabai Bhade

Sumitrabai, who lives in Ambad of Jalna district, some 400 km from Mumbai, lost her husband three years ago to a heart attack.

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Sumitrabai Bhade (45)


Nature has played a cruel trick on Marathwada farmer Sumitrabai Bhade (45). First it failed to rain, destroying her crop twice, and now when she has no money to do it all over again the third time, it is raining. "Where will I get the money to sow for a third time in the middle of the season? If it had rained a few days earlier, we could have saved our crop," she rued.

Sumitrabai, who lives in Ambad of Jalna district, some 400 km from Mumbai, lost her husband three years ago to a heart attack. "My malak (husband) was the pillar of the house. While he was around, I never had to ask for money from anybody. Now that he has died, people have no faith that we will return the borrowed money. They refuse to help us. It is terrifying," said the mother of three.

Sumitrabai owns three acres of land five km away from their village of a 1,000-odd people, but the drought rendered it barren. The mostly agricultural community survives on its cotton produce. Last year, the family spent Rs40,000 on seed, fertiliser and labour, only to get Rs30,000 in return.

"We have no option but continue farming, even if it doesn't give any returns. We cannot abandon our land, and we are not trained to do anything else. But now we have lost faith in our land. I do not want to see my two sons doing the same thing. I want them to go to big cities and earn money, so that at least they can eat properly," she lamented. The family has a loan of over Rs50,000.

"We spent almost Rs1 lakh on my daughter's wedding a few years ago. It included Rs75,000 as dowry. We are poor but a daughter's parents have to pay dowry or the marriage cannot take place in our region," she said.

Sumitrabai's elder son Bhagwat is in Class XII and the younger one, Lahu, is in Class X. Bhagwat scored 70 per cent marks in Class X. "He wanted to take admission in ITI to study Electronics but we did not have money to pay the tuition fee. So he is studying Arts now. In fact, he doesn't want to study anymore, saying it requires money," she said.

"Even to take admission in Class XII, Bhagwat had to request one of his teachers from the neighbouring village for financial help. He needed Rs1,250 as admission fee. The teacher was kind and asked him to concentrate on studies and not to worry about the fee. In the absence of his father, Bhagwat has taken the responsibility as the head of our family. At such a young age, he does all the hard work such as ploughing. I feel bad but what to do?" she said.

Not only that, he is unable to follow the dress code of his college. "He needs to wear a white shirt and blue trousers. But he goes in entirely another set of clothes, that too torn. I feel ashamed," she said.

She added that at one time, farmers used to be the kings. "First priority was agriculture, then business and third service. Now the situation is completely topsy-turvy. Farmers, who used to provide food for everyone else, have become beggars. I now cook only once a day. There is not enough food grains to preapare two meals," said Sumitrabai.

—inputs by Nilesh Mahajan

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