Daijiworld Media Network
Jun 9: Another Environment Day goes by and many are too busy fanning away sweltering heat to even notice. Most just want the skies to open up and shower the rain, so that the temperatures cool down a little, but this is not just about temperatures for a farmer in the outer stretches of our countryside. For a farmer the rain is a double edged sword. It can be too little and not give him enough water or it can be too much and trample the crops all together.
Documented to having been practised since 1100 BC, agriculture is so widely practised in our country that India is the world's second largest output of farm produce. And yet the penury of the existing farmers has the above mentioned story, re-enacted a million times over in all the states.
Reasons such as lack of water and new technologies, competing with genetically modified seeds are a few of the many reasons the market is not a level playing field for the solitary farmer. Increasing pressure from banks and money lenders has driven many farmers to end their lives. As recent as two months ago, it was reported that nearly 50,000 hectares of crops were destroyed by the in Vidharbha, further escalating the number suicides. On March 4, 2015, The Indian Express reported a rise in farmer suicides by 26% to 1109. As many as 986 of these were from Maharashtra, 84 from Telangana and 29 from Jharkhand. In 2013, 879 farmers gave up their lives and in 2012, 1046 farmers committed suicide.
Efforts to help the farmers have been pouring in from various avenues. But given the scale of help required, the supply is barely covering the demand. The main reason for this being that the farmer suicides continue to ascend a new incline each year and subsequently so do the families that need help.
This is where one man's efforts have changed the lives of thousands. Meet Suresh Ediga, who, though based in the US, has raised over Rs 19 lacs for farmers' families in India, and epitomized the cliche 'Where there's a will there's a way'.
A resident of the US where he is the vice-president of a financial company, Suresh Ediga is originally from Hyderabad and has been keenly involved in non-profit work for the past 14 years. He has been specifically involved with helping out farmers and their families in quite a few states.
Through his work, Ediga got involved with other equally concerned citizens such as Kishore Tiwari who are in Vidharba helping the families of the deceased farmers to move forward with their lives. Kishore Tiwari is a member of the Vidharba Jan Andholan Samiti who has been involved with this effort for the past 15 - 20 years. Ediga was introduced to him through NRI Samay which is an internet radio wherein he interviewed Tiwari about his work for the farmers in Vidharbha. He would put in efforts that many might shy away from like dealing with the authorities to get compensation for the widows. Ediga then contacted Tiwari to get more information about these women struggling to get their lives in order, so that he could approach his friends and try to arrange for temporary relief for them.
Ediga began with the Indian Farmer League (IFL) which he says was inspired from the Indian Premier League - IPL. The effort involves each person bringing in 11 members who will all contribute monetarily as much as individually possible, to help farmers and their families. The ultimate goal of the effort is to raise up to Rs 10 lac to help bring relief in whatever form or way necessary. So far they have raised close to Rs 5.5 lac with this initiative and welcome those who can help achieve the set goal by the end of the year.
The initiative has people such as Kishore Tiwari who are in constant touch and a rapport with the people. The money is not merely handed over to the families, they instead take action for the families. They pay the education fees or buying them the equipment required for their agricultural needs. He works with a couple of friends who are also based in the US, who gladly pitch in to help out with his work for the needful of our country. The programme works to help them gain some normalcy by helping either get farming equipment or by affording education for their children. Most importantly the initiative also works very hard to educate the farmers of the various government schemes that will help them as well as effective farming techniques.
Ediga along with a few friends started i4farmer.org which is again based on the ideology of helping out these farmers and their families. It offers people various ways in which they can lend a helping hand. People can adopt a village, support farm widows, support small initiatives or spread the word about the farmers so others can help.
The people involved with the enterprise look forward providing such solutions to farmers across the country. In cases of where the members of the surviving family do not wish to get into farming, the volunteers work to get them alternative employment that will help them to move on with their lives. The help provided is temporary not permanent - in other words it really is a helping hand to the families to stand on their own two feet.
Ediga has made sure that the work carried out is as transparent as possible. He posts regularly on social media networks as to the work that is carried out as well as the subsequent outcomes. The amount collected, along with other related details, is clearly stated on his blog page - https://milaap.org/campaigns/help-the-vidarbha-farmers. The page also has a list of families helped as well as the amount of money given to them along with how it was utilised.
Thus far Ediga has inspired many and encouraged many more to donate money or to spread the word so as to accrue more funds and keep the initiative working. He is constantly on the lookout for ways that will help sustain the enterprise. He has thus far collected upwards of Rs 19 lac to help out people in far flung places, in a land he calls home but is miles away from. He is also finalising plans to meet with the farmers and their families on his next trip to India.
In the course of his social work, Ediga has built some very reliable contacts who allow him to work on one aspect and take care of percolating the funds to the grass root level to activists like Tiwari. They recently embarked on the Samvad Yatra which focuses towards bringing together troubled farmers from close by villages and to then unite them into a voice that relays their troubles to the authorities concerned. They also get local experts to meet the farmers and tell them about how they can contend with extreme draught conditions.
One such project was the employing of drip irrigation for the people of Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh. Drip irrigation is also known as trickle irrigation. It is a method that allows water to drip slowly to the roots of plants thereby saving on water and fertilizer. The venture was completed successfully and has been documented online too.
He strongly urges more people to get on social media and demand answers from the system. He stresses that when more people ask for answers, the powers that be, will be forced to provide more transparency in their work and people will truly be able to achieve a government that works for all of them. He also says that he would be happy to help anyone who wishes to start a similar venture to help out farmers in their state. He has said that they can definitely collaborate with him or Tiwari for ideas, guidance or for information on contacts who can help out on the ground level.
Speaking about the much-debated Land Acquisition Bill, recently in the news, he emphasises the fact that the bill almost does away with the requirement to at least leave alone fertile land for farming. He firmly believes that if the government needs to use some land for any purpose other than farming, it is imperative that they sit with the people and discuss it. He has even contacting many politicians in this regard.
With all the work he has accomplished and is still working to realize, Ediga truly embodies the saying - You can take a man out of the country but you can't take the country out of the man.
Furthermore he forces the question as to why don't the rest of us who are living within the country try and pitch in to help our own brethren more? Why do we merely wait for activists/ the government to do something.
For all those who wish to know more:
Ediga's blog page https://sureshe.wordpress.com/
He can also be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his Facebook page.
Miles away, yet close to the heart,
It may be a small step but it's definitely a start.
The weather beats them down, their woes escalate
is it really so hard for us to relate.
It is because of farmers, we have food on our table,
and they are being robbed by shops that have a bigger label.
We are taught to respect the soil of our motherland
and yet when our own are down, we barely lift a hand
The world has not enough food anymore to feed everyone.
The problems loom large. There is no where left to run.
Before it is too late and we are left merely cursing fate.
Let us remedy the affairs that are in such a sad state.