Mandsaur agrarian unrest: The worth of a crore

Six people died during the farmer protests in Mandsaur, MP, after which the government announced Rs 1 crore to each of the families. The Indian Express visits their homes to hear their stories — from a new-born who will never see her father to an aunt who asks: “Will we get the money? When?”

Written by Milind Ghatwai , Mohammad Hamza Khan | Updated: June 25, 2017 2:47 am
farmer protest, madhya pradesh, mandsaur, mp violence, indian express During the protests in Mandsaur. (PTI)

How money reached them

When five protesters died on June 6 in alleged police firing near Mandsaur, the epicentre of the farmers’ unrest, the government announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for each death and later doubled it to Rs 10 lakh. But with anger spreading to other parts of the state and the import of its political damage sinking in, by the end of the day, Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan announced an unprecedented compensation – Rs 1 crore and a job to a family member of each of the victims.

Opposition parties accused the BJP government of “bidding over dead bodies” and the district collector, since transferred and later suspended, publicly expressed his inability to pay the compensation, saying anything more than Rs 4 lakh was beyond his mandate.

A week later, as Chouhan travelled to meet the family members, his secretariat ensured that the money was electronically transferred to the bank accounts of the families. Citing exceptional circumstances, the secretariat sent a note-sheet with the CM’s signature to the General Administration Department (GAD) to clear the money. The GAD, in turn, sent a formal sanction letter to the collector, who later transferred the money from the local treasury.
Officials in the CM’s secretariat said there was no limit to the amount that can be sanctioned under the CM’s discretionary fund. “By its very definition, it’s the CM’s ‘discretion’ and the process is not bound by rules. The amount can be Rs 10,000 or Rs 1 crore,” a top officer in the secretariat told The Sunday Express.

In normal circumstances, the process is rigorous and requires verification.

The CM had doled out huge amounts in the past, but that was restricted to players such as P V Sindhu, who got Rs 50 lakh from the discretionary fund after she won the silver medal at the Rio Olympics. Soldiers from the state who die in the line of duty usually get Rs 10 lakh.

The BJP high command was reportedly unhappy with the hefty compensation, fearing it could set a precedent. When the sixth death, allegedly in police custody, took place in Mandsaur a few days later, family members and relatives of Ghanshyam Dhakad said they would not cremate his body until they were compensated with Rs 1 crore and a job. Since then, the Congress has demanded that every suicide by farmers be compensated with Rs 1 crore.

To put things in perspective, a look at compensation packages announced in the past:

– On September 13, 2015, the day after an explosion left 80 people dead in Petlawad town, Chief Minister Chouhan announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for each death and a job to a family member.

– A farmer who was killed in police firing in Bareli, Raisen district, in 2012 got a compensation of Rs 2 lakh. The farmers were protesting against the delay in procurement of wheat caused by a shortage of gunny bags.

– In 1998, when the Congress was in power in the state, more than 19 farmers were killed in police firing in Multai town of Betul district. The victims’ families got Rs 2 lakh in compensation from the state government and Rs 50,000 from the Prime Minister’s fund.

– The compensation for those who died in the 1984 gas tragedy was hiked to Rs 10 lakh in 2010.

madhya pradesh, mandsaur, farm loan waiver, mp farmers killed, farmer family 1 crore compensation, indian express Family hopes to use the money for Satyanarayan’s father Mangilal’s (above) treatment. (Photo: Oinam Anand)

Satyanarayan Dhangar, 30,
Lodh village

Survived by:Parents Mangilal Dhangar and Bhanwari Bai, brothers Kanhaiyalal and Raju, and their wives Nirmala and Manju Bai.

Debt: Approximately Rs 4.5 lakh, of which Rs 3 lakh is against a tractor Satyanarayan bought — he paid instalments of about Rs 60,000 every six months; a bank loan of Rs 50,000 under the Mukhyamantri Aawas Yojana to build their house; and Rs 60,000 for the purchase of manure and seed. The family owns five bighas, of which two bighas stand mortgaged for Rs 40,000 (the land deed is shared by the extended family), along with about 300 grams of silver and a gold-plated necklace for Rs 7,000.

The Family: Having studied till Class 10, Satyanarayan was the most educated in the family; Kanhaiyalal studied till Class 2 and Raju till Class 5.

Satyanarayan used to take care of all the household finances, says Kanhaiyalal, “He was charming so he would convince people that he would pay off his debts later.” Satyanarayan never married.

The brothers, their wives, and the parents occupy a room each. The family grows wheat and alsi (flax) on their land. Last season, they also grew potatoes and peas. When not in the fields, the brothers work as labourers and are said to be good at reinforcing wells.

Satyanarayan’s father, Mangilal Dhangar, prefers to sleep outside. The day The Sunday Express met the family, he was on a cot in the open, crying out in pain. He finally slips off the cot onto the mud floor. As he keeps groaning, the brothers call an ambulance and he is taken away. “He was fine until now,” says his wife Bhanwari.

What’s in the house: Three cots, a ceiling fan, a table fan, lots of utensils and a tractor.

That day: He had joined the protests because he was frustrated with falling prices, says brother Raju. “Our debts kept rising and the returns from farm kept declining.”

Rs 1 crore: “We will pay off our debt, though the Chief Minister told us he will get it all waived,” says Raju. Some money might also be used for their father’s treatment. With the rest, they plan to buy some land.

Its worth: Over 22 times their total debt.

madhya pradesh, mandsaur, farm loan waiver, mp farmers killed, farmer family 1 crore compensation, indian express He joined the protests as expenses exceeded earnings, says Kanhaiyalal’s wife Sumitra (Photo: Oinam Anand)

Kanhaiyalal Patidar, 44,
Chillod Piplya village

Survided by: Wife Sumitra, daughter Puja and son Jitendra.

Debt: None, says wife Sumitra. He bought seeds and manure with help from the cooperative society. “The interest on the society’s loan is zero per cent for the first year and seven per cent from then on, so he avoided the interest,” says wife Sumitra.

The Family: Kanhaiyalal lived with his wife and children in a small, two-storey unplastered and unfurnished house, next to the homes of his two brothers, Jagdish and Ganpat, and other relatives.

Like each of his brothers, Kanhaiyalal owned six bighas, on which he grew wheat, soybean and garlic. “With the rate of wheat hovering between Rs 1,100 and Rs 1,200 a quintal, and that of garlic between Rs 800 and Rs 2,000 a quintal, each of us made only around Rs 30,000 last year,” says Jagdish. Kanhaiyalal also had a cow and a buffalo and sold some of the milk. “Milk sells for Rs 20-22 a litre, the price of water,” says his mother, Debu Bai. The brothers also worked as daily-wage labourers.

What’s in the house: Of the two rooms in the house, one is on the ground floor, and the other on the roof, which doubles up as a kitchen. There is a storehouse which has a few sacks of produce, an agricultural weighing machine and Kanhaiyalal’s motorcycle.

That day: “Kharcha nahi baith raha tha (Expenses exceeded our earnings),” says Sumitra. “Isiliye andolan mein gaye thhe (That’s why he joined the protest).”

The Rs 1 crore: The money has been transferred into the bank accounts of Sumitra and the children. “Bank officials have told us that we cannot withdraw money from the children’s accounts yet and need permission from the bade sahab (big boss),” says Laxmi Narayan, Sumitra’s father. The children say they are inspired by a relative, “a doctor uncle in Ratlam”, and want to be doctors too. While daughter Puja managed 50 per cent in Class 10, son Jitendra scored 70 per cent in Class 7.

Sumitra says the children’s share of money will be saved as fixed deposits. Kanhaiyalal’s brothers also indicate they will be given some money “to continue farming on his land”. “We will hire labourers to till his fields. All of us will also move to a better place within this village,” says Jagdish. Then there are the villagers who have donated to set up a bust of “martyr” Kanhaiyalal in the middle of the village.

Its worth: The Rs 1 crore is 625 times Puja’s annual school fee of Rs 16,000, which Kanhaiyalal could not afford; his father-in-law, Laxmi Narayan, would pay the child’s fee. Kanhaiyalal took care of his son’s education, which cost him Rs 12,000 a year. “Masterji in school told me I won’t be allowed to take my exams if I didn’t pay the fee. My father always somehow paid,” says son Jitendra.

madhya pradesh, mandsaur, farm loan waiver, mp farmers killed, farmer family 1 crore compensation, indian express The crore is not worth my husband, says Ghanshyam’s Rekha Bai (Photo: Oinam Anand)

Ghanshyam Salitra, 30,
Badwan village

Survived by: Wife Rekha Bai, four-year-old son Rudra, month-old daughter Himanshi, father Durgalal Dhakad, sister Shamu Bai

Debt: The family owes Rs 3 lakh to two banks and another Rs 2 lakh to a cooperative society. “The loan goes back years. Almost all of it was to buy seeds, manure, pay for labour, hire machines…,” says father Durgalal.

The Family: Ghanshyam never saw his daughter Himanshi. He was at the protest site on June 8, when his wife, Rekha, returned from her maternal home, where she had delivered her daughter. “He left hours before I arrived,” she says. His four-year-old son Rudra jumps around the house before coming back to play with his sister.

“Ghanshyam had enrolled Rudra in a private English-medium school, where the annual fee is Rs 10,000,” says Ghanshyam’s wife Rekha.

The family owns four bighas on which they grow wheat, garlic and fenugreek. Soon after Ghanshyam’s Class 12, he started working in their fields. “The chief minister came and assured me Rs 1 crore. I told him to bring back my husband. I asked him who will take care of my children. He said the government would bear all their education expenses and give me a job,” says Rekha.

“They killed my only son,” says Durgalal.

What’s in the house: A bedroom, another for the produce, and a third that doubles up as a kitchen and temple. Two cows, two buffaloes, a bull and a calf, and a dog, Kalu, in a fenced enclosure. Also, three fans and a television.

That day: “He and other men from the village were protesting and chanting ‘Jai Jawan! Jai Kisan!’ when police caned them. He tried to run but got stuck in the fence. Police took him to the station. I later came to know they hit him on his head and throat till he fell down,” Durgalal says. “They came home around 3.30 that night and claimed he was injured. They told us to reach the police station at 9 am, but by then they had taken him to a hospital in Indore. By the time my father-in-law got there, he was dead,” Rekha says.

The Rs 1 crore: “Our father went to Mandsaur to open accounts in the name of the children,” says Ghanshyam’s sister Shamu. “Some money has been transferred into the accounts but we don’t know how much.”

Its worth: “Zero. This crore is not worth my husband,” says Rekha.

madhya pradesh, mandsaur, farm loan waiver, mp farmers killed, farmer family 1 crore compensation, indian express Abhishek used to help his father Dinesh (above) in the fields (Photo: Oinam Anand)

Abhishek Dinesh, 18
Barkheda Panth village

Survived by: Parents Dinesh and Alka Bai, brothers Madhusudan and Sandeep, grandparents Bhanwar Lal and Lakshmi Bai

Debt: None. But this January, the family sold off 6 of their 29.5 bighas to cushion their expenses.

The Family: Most mornings, Abhishek would assist in the fields before leaving for school around 11 am. He would then return to the farm by 5 pm, finally getting home late in the evening. “He would also skip schools when there was a lot of work at the farm,” says brother Madhusudan.

In the just declared results of Class 11, Abhishek had scored 47.2 per cent. “He wanted to do an agriculture course once he was done with school,” says Sandeep, who is enrolled in a BBA course.

The family grows soybean, wheat, bajra, corn, lentils. “Over the past four to five years, the price of soybean has halved from around Rs 5,000 a quintal to around Rs 2,500 now. We also sold 52 quintals of onion for Rs 6,500 at Rs 1.25 per kg. How can a household run like this?” asks father Dinesh.

What’s in the house: There are logs of sal, about 1.5 feet in width, overhead, going across the roof of the rooms. Above them are bamboo poles, which hold a bamboo mat and the mud roof. “That’s how the roof has been in this house since 1957, when we built it,” says Abhishek’s grandfather Bhanwar Lal, in his early 90s. The house has four rooms and a large hall which was renovated about three years ago, apart from a kitchen.

That day: “He had gone to the protests as he was curious… others from the village were also going,” says mother Alka Bai. “Everyone goes to protest if the cause is genuine,” adds grandfather Bhanwar Lal.

The Rs 1 crore: The money has been transferred into the accounts of Abhishek’s parents. They first plan to buy back the land they sold earlier this year. They also want to buy more property and reinforce their well. Brother Sandeep will get the government job. Relatives have also been turning up frequently. “I learnt of Abhishek’s death today (a week after the incident) and came running,” says Ramesh Chand Patidar, a relative.

Its worth: The Rs 1 crore can cultivate their 23 bighas nearly 72 times over. “It takes Rs 6,000 roughly to cultivate a bigha of land,” says Dinesh.

madhya pradesh, mandsaur, farm loan waiver, mp farmers killed, farmer family 1 crore compensation, indian express Babloo’s mother had an hysterectomy operation a month ago (Photo: Oinam Anand)

Poonamchand Patidar alias Babloo, 23
Takrawad village

Survived by: Wife Anita, mother Durga Bai and sister Girija

Debt: Rs 4 lakh in unpaid home loans and about a couple of lakh more in agricultural dues for labour, seed and manure purchase, and tractor rent, among others. The family also paid Rs 50,000 for a hysterectomy operation that Babloo’s mother had over a month ago.

The Family: With their savings and some loans, Babloo’s father Jagdish Ram and uncle Bala Ram built the two-storey house that Babloo lived in with wife Anita, mother Durga Bai, uncle Bala Ram and cousin Dasrath. His father had passed away in January last year, after which he dropped out of college and married Anita. The house, with eight rooms, was built two years ago, when the family enjoyed better times.

Babloo inherited his father’s eight bigha on which he grew wheat, coriander, garlic and chickpeas. He also helped out on his uncle’s farm. “We sold a quintal each of wheat for Rs 1,100, coriander for Rs 4,000, fenugreek for Rs 1,500 and garlic for Rs 3,000. Over a year ago, the rates were Rs 2,000, Rs 7,000, Rs 4,000 and Rs 8,000,” says Bala Ram, who too owns eight bighas. “So while he spent Rs 96,000 on the farm, he made only about Rs 60,000 last year,” he adds. “Moreover, the cheques against payments take over a month to be cleared,” says cousin Dasrath. When not in the fields, Babloo used to repair vehicles, especially vans, to make ends meet.

What’s in the house: The house is mostly empty. A crib dangles in the middle of one of the rooms.

That day: “Around 150 youth from our village went to protest. Police shot at a few of them from close range. He was among those hit. Villagers told us police shot him on the road. The villagers rushed him to a hospital in Mandsaur on a motorcycle but he died on the way,” says Babloo’s uncle Bala Ram.

The Rs 1 crore: The money has been transferred to a joint account opened in the names of Babloo’s mother and wife. “The heavy dose of drugs after her operation has left Babloo’s mother with mental troubles,” says Bala Ram. Babloo’s wife Anita has left for her maternal home and will “return soon”, he says. Sister Girija Bai too shows little interest in “money matters” and so, it for Bala Ram and his son Dasrath to decide. “We still get notices from the bank. So we will pay that off first,” says Dasrath, who dropped out of school after Class X and will get the government job.

Then there are the relatives, who have not left the home since Babloo’s death. “Will we get money? And when? Everyone only comes and takes down our names,” says Babloo’s aunt Lakshmi. His mother Durga Bai sits expressionless.

Its worth: The compensation money is 200 times the cost of his mother’s operation.

madhya pradesh, mandsaur, farm loan waiver, mp farmers killed, farmer family 1 crore compensation, indian express He had good height but never passed the Army test, says Chainaram’s father Ganpat Lal (Photo: Oinam Anand)

Chainaram Patidar, 23
Nayakheda village

Survived by:  Wife Pushpa, parents Ganpat Lal and Manju Bai, younger brother Govind, sister Pavitra

Debt: Only Chainaram kept a record of the expenses, so the family has little idea if they had any loans, though they say he used to borrow from the “cooperative society”. If there is any debt, they don’t know about it as “no one has approached them yet”.

The Family: Chainaram’s two-room house is one of about a dozen small houses — mostly of his uncles and cousins — that lie on either side of a narrow lane within Nayakheda village.

The family owns two bighas on which they grow wheat and soybean. When not on the fields, Chainaram would, like his daily-wager father, go looking for work.

Keen on joining the Army, as a couple of village youths are in the forces, Chainaram began applying around five years ago, after he turned 18. “He had good height and could run quite a bit. He cleared the physical test thrice but would always be ruled out in the medical tests; his left eye was weak,” says father Ganpat, 43. On April 29 this year, Chainaram married Pushpa. She is still dazed and barely speaks.

What’s in the house: A cooking stove and gas cylinder, an earthen pot and utensils. The family sleeps on the floor under the only ceiling fan in the house, which has to be prodded with a stick for it to start rotating.

That day: The family says he had gone to the protest, but “just to look”. “Villagers said he had been hit on his leg. It was only the next day that we were told he was hit on his head,” says sister Pavitra.

The Rs 1 crore: “The money will be divided among 4-5 people,” says Ganpat. There are Ganpat’s brothers — Rameshwar, Balu Ram, Paras Ram — and his cousins, all of whom, he says, will receive a share of the crore. Also, neighbours Mangilal, 61, and Phool Chand, 72, who have “lent a shoulder.” But Ganpat doesn’t know how it will be divided. “I am uneducated. Chainaram’s uncle Bharat does all the work, he has all the documents. We will all sit and divide the money soon,” he says.

Its worth: The compensation is 376 times the value of his family’s wheat production. Last year, they produced 19 quintals of wheat and sold half of it for Rs 1,400 a quintal.

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