21 October, 2020

Slash And Burn

Sow tons of debt, and it's a bumper harvest for the Grim Reaper

Atul Loke
Slash And Burn

Chandrabhan Gurnule’s house in Saikheda village, 20 km off the Panderkauda town in Vidarbha district, is easy to identify. The locals call it the "suicide house". When we went there, Gurnule’s 13th day funeral ceremony was under way. Like hundreds of others in the district, the 35-year-old farmer had committed suicide by consuming pesticide on April 2. Three days before killing himself, he had repaid Rs 25,000 of his Rs 1.05 lakh bank loan. He had given everything he earned from a partially ruined cotton crop to do that—thinking that under the central government’s new package, his 9 per cent loan would be substituted for a 7 per cent one. 

That didn’t happen. The bank declared him a defaulter due to the Rs 80,000 unpaid amount and refused to lower his interest rate. Gurnule had no option but to borrow another Rs 1.50 lakh from the village moneylender. "He always worried about how he would raise money to sow the next season and how he would repay his loans," says his widow, Rekha, who has an eight-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter. The worry and the...



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