Baghpat farmer says 'ready for suicide'

I am ready to commit suicide, says 75-year-old Baljor Singh Arya even as district administration drag him away from what they see is a mediaperson talking to a protesting farmer. Arya, a sugarcane farmer from Malakhpur village of Baghpat district in western Uttar Pradesh, says successive governments have done well by bringing in new technology to up yields. But, he asks, why have they allowed the payment system of sugar mills to remain old-fashioned? In his words, how sugarcane farmers are being double-crushed by loans and dues from mills.

Sugarcane is the lifeline of farmers in this region. And when you hold back our payments—understand it this way—our lives remain on a ventilator; we live in suspension, neither dead nor living. Since generations we have seen and learnt only one means of livelihood—sugarcane farming. There is no other option. Payment ho toh bachchon ki fees bharegi, betiyon ki shaadi hogi, makaan banega... (If we get paid from the mills for the sugarcane, out children will go to schools, out daughters will be married, our houses will be built… ). Otherwise either you wait for the governments to act or protest on the road and brave police brutality. This is life for us in short. Governments come and go. Mayawati, Mulayam, Akhilesh, Adityanath… nothing changes for us. They are all one. Your payment is due, overdue, so you take a loan. The burden rises every year. Go to any village in sugarcane belt. There is not one village where farmers are not burdened with loans. Do you believe a farmer ends his life because of some suicidal tendency? He does it because he sees no hope. Things have only got worse with the advent of new farm technologies. The yield has increased manifold but the payment cycle has remained the same. They have time and money to bring in new technologies (from other countries) but they would not replicate the payment system of developed countries. Because on paper, it shows them in good light and the fat cats of sugar mills donate to their parties. When Yogi came to power, he promised that our loans will be waived in a fortnight and payments will not be held beyond one year. Our holy books tell us a `Yogi’ always speaks the truth. He (Yogi) should at least live up to his title. Even Modiji hasn’t kept his word. He assured us that GST will make tax rates and the prices of electricity, fertilizers, urea, etc uniform across the country. However, you just cross over to Haryana (a few kms away) and you will be surprised to see the difference (in the prices of these basic things needed by the farmers) enjoyed by the farmers there. Recently, one of our friend, Udayvir Singh (65), who was sitting with us here on a dharna, died. Because he died just a day before the Prime Minister’s visit here, the administration acted with great speed. The officials quickly handed over a cheque of ₹12 lakh to his family. Can you imagine? In one day, he got the compensation, although we had demanded ₹50 lakh as compensation. On such occasions, you wonder if only a death in the family make government sit up and act! Will we get money only after we die protesting or commit suicide? I am ready to commit suicide at this age, as it will not only benefit my family but also my fellow farmers. These thoughts are always on my mind these days…
(It was at this point that district administration officials surrounded Arya and took him away by force, warning him against talking to the media)  
Also Read at Lokmarg

Sugarcane: Farmer in Distress, Industry Helpless

‘Nothing Has Been Done Ever For Farmers’

—With editorial assistance from Lokmarg]]>

Visiting The 'Cancer Village' Of Haryana

visits the “cancer village” of Sakras in south Haryana. Located in newly renamed but as-poor-as-before Nuh district, Sakras has the air of death over it. The stench too, from an open drain leading out of the village. Cancer may the reason for the infamy of the village, but it’s no better or worse than those dotting the dry countryside for miles around.    Mohamad Irshad does not understand who, or what, to blame for the death of his father from lung cancer. He lives with seven other members of his family in Sakras village of Haryana’s most backward district of Nuh, earlier known as Mewat. This southwestern part of Haryana is an arid region with a history soaked in the blood of many battles, its sand-and-rock margins blending into Rajasthan’s Alwar and Bharatpur districts. In this district where Muslims make up almost 80 per cent of the population, Sakras, about 75 km from Delhi, is known as the ‘cancer village’— over 45 cancer deaths have been reported here in just the last three years, and 100-odd in the last decade. “It is hard to pinpoint the reason for many cancer deaths, including that of my father. We live in constant fear after my father Abdul Razzaq died on May 1 this year. Earlier, his three brothers Bashir, Shahabuddin and Qayyam Ali also died due to cancer in chest, mouth and throat respectively over the last two-and-a-half years,” Irshad says. “My father had undergone chemo therapy for one-and-a-half year, including nine months at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at Delhi, but he did not survive.” Sakras residents say life in the village is harsh as it is, with a crushing lack basic amenities like drinking water, proper drainage system and sanitation. Most blame the ground water, their sole source of drinking water, as responsible for the frequent cancers. It’s contaminated, they say. Niyamat Ali Khan says even the taste of the water in the village is different. “Our village has a population of about 28,000 and is considered one of the largest in Ferozpur Jhirka tehsil of the district. We have sunk borewells at several places in the village to extract groundwater for drinking. Apart from the area near the drain, the entire village gets salty water to drink. Hence, the villagers have installed half a dozen submersible pumps next to drain to fulfill their daily needs,” Khan says. It is clear he believes the drain to be the culprit. Other Sakras residents share his suspicions. Most say that the sewage water in the drain is being sucked up by the surrounding soil and subsequently contaminating groundwater. But there’s no choice, they say. Then again, the pipes used by the submersible pumps to extract groundwater are also variously immersed in the drain as they snake the shortest way to their user destinations in the village. Fazaluddin Beser, the former sarpanch (village head) says the village has been witnessed deaths due to illness for a “long time”, but the numbers have gone up alarmingly only in the last three years. “We have noticed several deaths due to illness in the last two-and-a-half years that reveal an alarming trend of cancer in the village. I have immediately brought it to the notice of the district administration so they can find out the reason behind these frequent deaths. Officials took samples of water from the village a month ago and their test results are awaited,” Beser says. The former sarpanch, too, subscribes to the groundwater theory. “We have strong suspicion that the groundwater the villagers are using for their domestic needs is contaminated in some way. That the public health department of Nuh has not revealed the result of water sample testing is only adding to the fear here,” Beser says, pointing his finger at the district administration of Nuh for not coming up with a proper action plan like installation of a common water purification system in the village. “It’s not the mobile transmission towers,” he says. “If that be the case, patients would have brain cancer which is not the case here with most patients dying due to lung cancer and some to cancers of the mouth and throat. Cancer experts from different states, including Punjab, Delhi and Rajasthan, came here but none could pinpoint the cause of the high cancer rate here.” What does the government-appointed civil surgeon have to say? Shri Ram Siwach calls the situation “really alarming”, adding that the health department of Haryana is deeply concerned with it. “We have collected water samples and analysis continues. We are also taking help of prominent cancer experts,” he says. Meanwhile, cancer continues to stalk the untidy streets and warrens of Sakras.]]>

3 held in Haryana for assault on Kashmiri youth

The Haryana Police on Saturday arrested three people for allegedly assaulting two Kashmiri students in Mahendergarh town in south Haryana. “Guilty will be punished. The incident began over a minor collision of motorcycle of the accused. Three people have already been arrested and senior officer (SP) is on the spot,” Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar tweeted on Saturday after the matter was raised by his Jammu and Kashmir counterpart, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. The police had earlier on Saturday registered a case following the alleged assault on two Kashmiri students a day ago. The two Kashmiri youth, Aftab Ahmad and Amjad, students of the Central University of Haryana near Mahendergarh town, around 125 km from Delhi, were discharged from hospital after first aid late on Friday night. Both were allegedly assaulted by local youth on Friday evening when they had gone to the market. The Kashmiri students have alleged that they were assaulted without any provocation. The case was registered under several sections of the Indian Penal Code for rioting, unlawful assembly, wrongful restraint and voluntarily causing hurt. Mehbooba Mufti has urged authorities in Haryana to probe the incident and take action. “Shocked & disturbed to hear reports of Kashmiri students being assaulted in Mahendergarh, Haryana. I urge the authorities to investigate and take strict action,” Mufti had tweeted. Following Khattar’s response on Twitter about action in the matter, Mufti tweeted: “Thank you for your prompt action @mlkhattar ji.”

(IANS) // ]]>