'I am buried under a mountain of debt. Wheat at Rs 2 and rice at Rs 3 is killing farmers.'
'We are tired of telling the government to help. Now what you want me to do? Commit suicide?'
The award-wapsi trend seems to have now extended to the agricultural sector, where despite many promises by politicians, farmers feel let down.
M M Zade, a farmer from Chandrapur in Maharashtra, recently returned his award for 'best farming' practices. He says the fourth consecutive year of the drought, a barren land with nothing to grow and a Rs 10 lakh (Rs 1 million) debt has forced him to contemplate suicide.
Farmer Zade spoke to N Suresh about his struggles on the eve of Republic Day.
Why have you returned the award conferred to you by the state?
Once upon a time farming got me returns. I did well and I was awarded for best farming practices. Now for the last four years we are facing extreme drought. My district Chandrapur has not got sufficient water and no steps have been taken to address this.
I grew paddy and see how the price of rice has fallen. Farming should be profitable. The government have been selling rice for Rs 3 per kg. Our investment is many times more and we don't even get a fair price.
Fertiliser costs Rs 600, the prices of pesticides have doubled, labour charges are also high.
This new government had made big promises and said we would be given funds, make farming profitable. We have been made fools.
My fellow farmers have committed suicide and in such circumstances I wanted my soul to be at peace and that is why I returned this award.
How much land do you have? What have you been growing till now?
I would grow cotton, oranges, now people do not want to buy oranges. Our produce has rotted away. I also grow turmeric, chillies, vegetables, fruits, wheat and paddy.
It pinches me when the government sells wheat for Rs 2 and rice for Rs 3. The government should also take care of the investments needed for these low returns.
I am buried under a mountain of debt. Wheat at Rs 2 and rice at Rs 3 is killing farmers.
Rural areas are drying up and you can see vast expanses of arid lands. The labour force has left for the cities in search of jobs.
How are you managing your expenses and debt?
Should I shout aloud so the world can hear I am under huge debt?
At the age of 70 I am struggling for basic survival. I have four daughters who I have educated very well. I incurred huge expenses as we have to pay dowry to get the girls married. It is still prevalent in our region.
My wife helps me in the farm, she manages things on so many levels. It is not easy living in a farming household. She is so upset, I can see it, but she will not voice it to ensure I am not hurt.
Nobody can take away our sorrow and loss. We are simply fed up. It is heart wrenching to see smaller farmers. Imagine such vast expanses just left dry and arid...
Chandrapur has faced drought for over four years. Have there been any efforts to ease the plight of the people living here?
We are tired of telling the government to help. Now what you want me to do? Commit suicide?
I have only one alternative ahead of me -- that is to end my life. I have a debt of Rs 10 lakh. We have asked the government to waive off our debts, but they will not do it.
I returned everything to this government that has taken us for a big ride. I even told the government that now I will have to end my life.
We have struggled long and hard. Once we agitated and were part of Sharad Joshi's andolan for farmers. Now we have adopted the Gandhian approach and returned the award.
Image published only for representative purposes.