This year, nearly 600 farmers have committed suicide due to the drought in Maharashtra. Though government officials play their role in dispensing funds to alleviate farmer distress, some such as Vijaykumar Phad go beyond the call of duty.
Maharashtra has a long folk tradition in its villages of specific communities--or sometimes individuals with a talent for recitation and singing--who narrate stories, sing songs and recite poetry to townspeople or villagers of the legendary figures associated with their villages. Akin to bards or troubadours these recitalists their stories are frequently of valour and about how the village elders have frequently stood resolute in difficult circumstances.
Some of these bards, don a particular costumes worn usually by warkaris--a white kurta, dhoti and a brightly-coloured turban, and women draped in a nauvari (nine yard) sari--before singing on stage. Vijaykumar Phad, the deputy divisional commissioner, general administration and posted in Aurangabad, has begun to take on this role after work. He frequently sings in a particular village to dissuade farmers from suicide and encouraging to keep their fortitude The Times of India.
Recently, to cope up with the rising number of farmer suicides in the state, a task force set up by Maharashtra government had suggested that farmers should be given a grant equivalent to 100 days wages from MGNREGA and a price stabilisation fund to protect them from distress sale of their produce.
Donning the traditional warkari costume, Phad, who hails from Kuntha Khurd, a small village in Latur, Marathwada, says that growing up in a farmer household makes it it is very easy for him to relate to their distress.
"Because I come from such a background, farmer-related issues are very close to my heart. I have decided to not only contribute professionally, but personally as well," he told TOI.
As of September this year, more than 660 farmers in Maharashtra have committed suicide, as compared to 628 last year. The highest number of suicides are from Beed (179) followed by Osamanabad with (103) and Latur (64) districs.
A farmer named Shayaji Pawar from Paithan taluka told TOI, "People from rural areas are curious to see a senior officer visiting their village, sitting with them, counselling them. The farmers even find an opportunity to speak to him about the problems they are facing at different sections of revenue and agriculture department, and he guides them readily."