The Suicide of Sisyphus

Hardnews enters the heart of darkness at Ground Zero in Vidarbha and discovers an infinite epic of tragedy amidst an epidemic of multi-crore irrigation, MGNREGS, Bt Cotton and other scams. From this epicentre of mass suicides of farmers, we bring you in-depth investigations and special stories from the deepest interiors. Also, how the political class and the bureaucracy have ravaged the society and the people. To read, pick up your copies from the nearest news-stand. Or check out this website on November 8, 2012, for exclusive coverage

Hardnews Bureau Delhi 

Every individual narrative here is like an epic of infinite despair surrounded by the Bt cotton fields of apocalypse now. When the next male or female suicide will happen in which neighbourhood is a matter of conjecture, because living and life itself is nothing but an abject, hellish uncertainty, dying every day, resurrecting the last drops of resilience from a vacuum of no hope, crushed by debt which becomes a Sisyphean mountain even if the amount is so abysmally low. They are sometimes left all alone, in solitary suffering, with not a scaffolding to hold onto, not a straw to wade across the dirty waters of the failed dams and irrigation projects. Ditched by the mainline political class and powerful, neo-rich politicians across the spectrum, rejected to condemnation by the bureaucracy, exiled by the state and central governments, and surrounded by organised plunder and loot, it is difficult to imagine how farmers in the interiors of Vidarbha have been able to survive the everyday hopelessness of their lives.

With the banking system refusing to help, or only favouring the rich, compare their miscellaneous debts, and the never-ending moneylender rat traps, with the gigantic dirty money edifices of the contractors and politicians; and you will see the darkest ironies that stalk ‘superpower’ India, and thereby position it as one of the most corrupt, undemocratic and inegalitarian nation-states on the map of the world. Surely, the micro debts seem meaningless compared to the tens of thousands of crores of rupees siphoned off by these politico-contractor-criminals in multiple irrigation, MGNREGS, Bt cotton and other scams that have ravaged the fledgling political economy and social landscape of Vidarbha.

How can you let thousands of farmers commit suicide, and epical narratives of stunning suffering and tragedy persist every day across the land, and yet choose to turn a blind eye to the scamsters’ siphoning of multi-crore mythical projects?

Indeed, the noose, or rat poison, or pesticide, seems to be the only moment of redemption which the Indian State and some of its brutish politicians have decided to provide to the farmers. Every subaltern narrative will prove with evidence, which spreads like an epidemic in this epicentre of farmer suicides, that the high input and expensive Bt cotton dream project sold by corporates as much as the government-sponsored irrigation projects to help get water in the parched agricultural land, has decisively failed. In a macabre sequence, they have only added to the devastation of traditional economies and social ecology. The Bt cotton disaster is man-made, pushed by governments and crony capitalist, to spread the carnivorous wings of the notorious multinational, Monsanto, widely criticised by ecologists for its predatory methods and disaster potential.

That all these irrigation scams were initially presided over by nephew Ajit Pawar of the NCP as state irrigation minister in Maharashtra, and that the Union agriculture ministry has been controlled by uncle Sharad Pawar, only adds to the vicious twists in the dirty tale, and provides a public spectacle of both, the infinite insatiability of greed, and the crass insensitivity of human conduct. Add to this the friendly entrance of the BJP president, self-styled ‘social entrepreneur’ Nitin Gadkari, and sundry other small-timers across these parties who made it big through an entrenched network of corruption, and this tale becomes more macabre. That the PM’s huge financial package too has been turned into a wasteland, and that the top Congress and UPA leadership cared two hoots, is a pointer that the moral and governance decline is irretrievable.

How can you let thousands of farmers commit suicide, and epical narratives of stunning suffering and tragedy persist every day across the land, and yet choose to turn a blind eye to the scamsters’ siphoning of multi-crore mythical projects? Hardnews reporters enter this remote terrain and rediscover a documentary which is yet unfolding. The truth is, inside this heart of darkness, between despair and hope, there is not even a thin line.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: NOVEMBER 2012