Jaipur: It has been almost two years since the suicide of Sohan Lal Kadela, a debt-ridden farmer from Thakri village in the Raisinghnagar block of Sri Ganganagar district in Rajasthan, attracted media attention to the account of his suicide note in which he held Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot responsible for his suicide. Even today, her family is struggling to repay the accumulated debt amounting to around three lakh rupees.
For her eight bighas of land in the district, Kadela had requested two harvest loans of around Rs 2 lakh each from the Syndicate bank in Raisinghnagar. Due to the low crop yield for two consecutive years, it became impossible for her to repay the loan.
When the Congressional government announced that it was renouncing loans from the state’s farmers after coming to power in the 2018 parliamentary elections and then reiterating the pledge in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Kadela had hoped that waiving the loan would end his problems.
While ending his life by suicide, Kadela criticized the Gehlot government for failing to keep its promise to forgo agricultural loans from nationalized banks.
In her note, Kadela wrote: “Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot are responsible for my death. No one else will be blamed for it. Within ten days of parliamentary elections, they pledged to write off farmers’ debt [from nationalised banks]. What happened to their promise? I ask my body not to be burnt till all the brothers’ debt [farmers] is waived.
As the case grabbed the headlines, the Gehlot government said it was determined to ensure a better future for farmers.
“Every time a person dies or commits suicide, it is absolutely unacceptable to us”, Pilote had said at a press conference around this time.
However, in January of this year, Syndicate Bank served Kadela’s family with a notice warning them to either pay the debt or to be prepared for strict action that would be taken against them by the bank to recover the loan amount.
After Kadela’s death, his family, consisting of his mother Tili Devi, his wife Ganga (38), his eldest daughter Minakshi (19) and her youngest son Ghanshyam (16), were confronted with extreme difficulties in meeting basic expenses.
The only source of income for the family is his mother’s pension worth Rs 1,000 per month under a government pension scheme and his wife’s employment under the Guarantee Act. rural employment of Mahatma Gandhi (MNREGA).
To add to the miseries, last month Kadela’s sick mother passed away. The family is now worried about the drop in their income due to his pension.
Her daughter Minakshi says that for the past two years, they have not been able to cook meals twice a day.
“We cook dal every day and eat it all day,” she says. “Even if we want to, we can’t afford to have two different meals a day.”
“My father used to bring fruit home, but it’s not possible for us to buy it now,” she added.
Minakshi is moved by her father’s extreme walk. After her suicide, she decided to join the Indian police service. She even joined a coaching center, but later due to the house’s poor financial situation, she couldn’t handle the costs.
“This [coaching] demanded an annual fee of Rs 6,000, ”Minakshi explains. I had paid Rs 1,000 and the center allowed me to pay the remaining fees in installments, but after the foreclosure there was no more income and I had to give up.
Minakshi expected that his grandmother’s pension would allow him to pay the training costs. However, her disappearance had left her stranded.
“I got a call from the coaching center asking me to sign up again and pay the fee later, but I have no way to pay it anytime soon,” she added.
Kadela’s family also claim that the government has yet to pay any compensation instead of acquiring his land under the Bharatmala project.
After Kadela’s suicide, the Gehlot government only denied that he was in debt. “I was told that the person was not really in debt. But anyway, someone is dead, ”Pilot said.
However, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) in Sri Ganganagar staged protests to remind the Congressional government of its pledge to forgo agricultural loans in the state.
“This government seems to have forgotten about the state’s farmers,” said Kalu Johari, a leader of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) in Sri Ganganagar.
In recent years, loan waiver has become an electoral gimmick in Rajasthan. During the previous BJP government headed by Vasundhara Raje, a one-time waiver of up to Rs 50,000 for small and marginal farmers who had defaulted on short-term loans from cooperative banks was granted to the approaching the legislative elections of 2018.
Later, Ashok Gehlot’s government also promised a two-phase waiver. First, forgo loans from cooperative and development banks and second, loans from commercial and rural banks.
While the first phase of the exemption promised by the Gehlot government has been completed, the second phase, which constitutes the bulk of agricultural loans, has not yet been implemented.