Every day for several months, Durgam Kalyani (18) watched her father weep — sometimes out of anger and desperation, other times out of humiliation and hunger. The tears stopped rolling one night in October last year when her father Venkaiah (40) — a paddy and cotton farmer from Telangana’s Jayashankar Bhupalapally
district — drank poison, and died.
Thirteen months later, on Thursday afternoon, Kalyani walked with a framed photo of Venkaiah from Gurudwara Bangla Sahib to Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, where farmers and agricultural workers from across the country reached for the Kisan Mukti March the next day.
“Money lenders come home and harass us… my father had taken the land on lease, and was under huge debt. The government should waive the loan, so others don’t die,” said Kalyani.
She is one of the over 50 women from various districts of Telangana who travelled 30 hours in trains to reach the Capital, and walked with photos of their fathers or husbands, all farmers who had committed suicide. Over months, the women said, they saved money to be able to buy the train tickets, and frames, in order to get their voices heard at the protest.
In the group was Orsu Kavitha (29) from Nalgonda district of Telangana, who discovered her husband Kaasaiya’s body on their field in 2015.“I went to give him lunch, he was lying there dead…he drank pesticide. We had a loan of Rs 4 lakh, and I didn’t even know. We had suffered crop loss because the borewell he dug didn’t yield any results,” she said.
Unable to pay the loan, Kavitha works in the field from 6 am to 6 pm, and then pulls a three-hour shift on the sewing machine. “I only found out about the debt when the money lenders showed up at home to harass us. My father-in-law committed suicide ten years ago because of the same reason. I don’t want my children to take up farming if things don’t improve,” she said.
For Moodapu Yadamma (28) from Nalgonda, her husband Mallayya’s death last year turned her into the sole breadwinner of her family of four. “Apart from loan waiver, I want this government to recognise women farmers with the same respect. My husband hanged himself after he couldn’t pay back the loans taken for a borewell,” she said.
On Thursday, the women from Telangana joined hundreds of farmers and agricultural workers from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, among other states, who have reached Delhi to participate in the march from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street Friday morning.
Apart from demanding implementation of the Swaminathan Report, loan waivers and reduction in prices of fertilisers and diesel, their main demand is to get Parliament to discuss the agrarian crisis in the coming winter session.