An Open Letter from Balramkisan of Bundelkhand to Prime Minister Narendra Modi
I am Balram, a farmer from Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh. On behalf of all the farmers, I want to tell you our story, think of it as the plea of a farmer.
On October 31, you inaugurated the world’s tallest statue. It stands at 80 feet (length), 70 feet (width) with a total height of 600 feet, and is the statue of Indian statesman and founding father, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Around five thousand crore rupees were spent on this idol, I hear. To see the glory of this very statue, lakhs of people from different states were seen visiting Gujarat, and indeed, still are. A special train was alotted too for passengers to make this journey. It is not that I am against your decision to have this statue constructed and unveiled. Patel was, I am sure, a great man. But I do have questions concerning the huge amount of money spent on it.
While we, the farmers of Bundelkhand, are reeling from numerous problems that have made our situation dreadful. Many of us are killing ourselves because we feel crushed when there isn’t a good crop yield in our fields. We face extreme conditions such as floods and droughts that worsen our lives.
And then all your government schemes and facilities are either not made available to us, and when they are, they do not prove to be beneficial.
If I tell you about myself, I have no electricity to wield to irrigate my fields. When I do get it, the voltage is so low, and it is not of any use. It is the season of rabi, but to sow rabi crops, I do need enough water. Then there are the prices! Prices of fertilisers, of seeds, all of which have been increased by your government. And here we had voted your party in, thinking that maybe this is the change we need.
You made a vow to us when you said that there would be loan waivers, but many of my brothers, myself included, have not been given this relief. Forget the loan waive-off; we haven’t even got the compensation amount of the destroyed crops that had been promised to us too. I am not even sure that I need it now, because I am quite certain that it would be a Rs 50 to 100 cheque – a piece of paper that pokes fun at us.
During the budget presentation of 2018-19, your government allocated around Rs 650 crores to Bundelkhand’s development programme. We read the news too, but we never came across any of this aid, tangibly.
It is a very dismal life for us, Modi ji. It is not grand like the big statue you have constructed.
We have all been given farmer’s credit cards that force us to take loans for no reason. You make sure that I was unable to pay the debt for this year and then slap on a new one for another year. But even as we refuse it, many a time we are forced to accept it. Often, under the burden of these crippling loans that work in a never-ending cycle, we are compelled to our lives. Did you know that in Bundelkhand, we lose one farmer every day, this way?
We have been continuously protesting. We go on hunger strikes. We protest outside official departments. We shout slogans, wave placards. But we do not hear a word from you.
Just last month, my peers and I wrote you a letter with our blood, but we never heard back. Modiji, we even came to the big cities like Lucknow and Delhi, several times, but we were welcomed by police lathi charges. We headed back to our villages, our homes, some of us injured and all of us broken, humiliated.
Do you have any concern for us? Could it really be possible that you don’t even have the money we need for even our compensation amounts? What is the reason that you are deaf to our demands?
Could it be that the Rs 650 crore that was to be invested in Bundelkhand’s development programme, was spent anonymously? Most likely, to fill the pockets of government officials? Or did it contribute towards that Iron Man statue, perhaps?
Modi ji, are you looking down at us, nestled in Patel’s chest, wondering what the fuss is about? Can you hear me, Balramkisan from Bundelkhand, from way up there?