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Relief is the buzzword

By Y. Mallikarjun

DHARMAPUR (MAHBUBNAGAR Dt.), JULY 1. "I will buy cattle, sink a borewell and educate my children with the money being given by the Government,'' said 40-year-old J. Maikya Naik, a tribal, just before receiving the cheque from the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in this village, situated in the drought-affected Mahbubnagar district.

Dharamapur village was chosen by the authorities for the distribution of cheques by Dr. Singh to the families of 13 farmers who have committed suicide since the Congress assumed office in the State in view of its proximity to Mahbubnagar town.

While 35 cases of suicides have been reported in the district since May 14, the administration has rejected 18 others and reports are awaited in respect of four others. While Manikya Naik worked as a migrant labourer in Pune, his wife Jarpula Devi Bai, who used to cultivate jowar and groundnut on a three-acre land at Nagargundu Tanda,a hamlet of Gundyal, committed suicide by consuming pesticide on May 28. The family owed Rs. 12,000 to the Sangameswara Bank and more than Rs. 1 lakh to private moneylenders.

Flanked by his 6-year-old, Vinoda, 8-year-old Kavita and a son, who is studying degree at Tandur, Naik, said: "I am concerned about the children, particularly their education.'' Another son of his is attending to farm work.

Asked why she came, Amrutamma from Raikal village and widow of Chandraiah, who ended his life on May 26, said: " I don't know what they will give. They promised assistance." Her husband committed suicide after the debts mounted to Rs. 1.30 lakhs. Her 11-year-old daughter is in the seventh standard. Similar was the heart-rending plight of the other victims of the agrarian crisis in the district.

The function to distribute the cheques was held in a sprawling area under a specially-erected pandal. The venue was surrounded by hillocks and scores of people from nearby villages thronged the area. Among them were farmers who wanted to petition the Prime Minister about crop losses being incurred by them and seek assistance. Chenniah said he had sunk four borewells but only one was working. "I cultivate paddy and got only 25 bags last year as against the normal yield of 70 bags,'' he lamented.

He and the other farmers said they wanted the Government to waive interest on previous loans and arrange fresh loans as no bank was coming forward to lend them in spite of official announcements. They also complained of acute scarcity of fodder.

As the function got under way, news photographers and representatives of the electronic media protested against the inadequate arrangements made by the district arrangement. The Prime Minister's media advisor, Sanjay Baru, promised that such things would not recur.

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