Dhanaji Jadhav, a 45-year-old debt-ridden farmer from Maharashtra's Solapur, ended his life by hanging himself from a tree near his house in Veet village on Wednesday. He left a suicide note with instructions stating, "don't cremate me till (Maharashtra) chief minister Devendra Fadnavis comes here (to visit his family)".
He also demanded loan waivers for the farmers in the note. Firstpost spoke to his father Chandrakant and brother Santosh. Here are excerpts from the interview:
What exactly happened that day?
Chandrakant Jadhav (father): He was under a lot of pressure because of debt. We were unable to repay our loans. He was following the news about the ongoing farmers' strike and listening to the statements made by political leaders about loan waivers.
He had started to lose hope and used to say that nothing will change. We had no idea about what was going on in his mind. He was not home throughout the day on Wednesday. When Dhanaji came back in the evening, his mother asked him if he wanted a cup of tea. He refused and left the house again immediately. We then went to one of our relatives' house for a while. When we came back, we found his body hanging from a tree.
What problems was he facing? What was the amount of the loan?
Santosh Jadhav (brother): My father had first taken a loan of Rs 50,000 about four-five years ago and we couldn't repay that amount. So, Dhanaji applied for another loan of Rs 50,000. We then had a total loan of Rs one lakh and despite trying hard, we couldn't repay the amount.
This loan was taken against the two acres of land we owned. My brother used to get notices from banks and a few days ago, the bank officials visited our home. Both my father and my brother were not there. Dhanaji was tense when he came to know about the visit and that might have led to his decision.
Why was he facing difficulties in repaying the loan?
Santosh: We barely get any money out of the crops we sow. This has been the situation since the last five years. We have to depend on rainfall for farming and severe drought in the state had affected the crops badly.
We spent Rs 50,000 to grow jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millets) but we barely got Rs 10,000 in return. Dhanaji even tried to plant pomegranate but the plants barely survived for a year and didn't yield any fruits. There was no income. Debt kept on increasing and income was decreasing. I had to work on a farm in a nearby village, earning daily wages. But my income was barely sufficient to take care of our daily needs. All we had was the farm land. But, because of the loan Dhanaji had taken against it, he was worried that we would lose our only source of income.
But rainfall was good this year. Didn't that help in improving the situation?
Chandrakant: We have to depend on the water released from the nearby dam along with rainfall as the quality of soil here isn't very good. But because we are far away from the source, we did not get any water. People dig canals midway and put pumps to pull out water for their farms. How will the water reach here, under these conditions?
And when these practices were uncovered, the irrigation department decided to stop the supply altogether. A lot of work was done in our village under the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyaan, but how will that help if there is no water?
Was farming your only source of income?
Santosh: My father and Dhanaji used to look after the farm. I had already quit farming because we needed another source of income. But when the debts started mounting, Dhanaji and my father also started working on daily wages around the village in a hope to get some additional income.
But that did not help in repaying the loan. Dhanaji had to borrow money from nearby villagers as the banks were not ready to approve another loan. The condition was so bad that he couldn't even pay the school fees of his children. One of them is studying in Class 9th and the other in Class 12th.
The elder one had to go to Pune to work in an ice factory, in hopes of earning enough to cover his school fees. But after Dhanaji's suicide, even he has come back here. My brother was the strongest of us all and was a big support for our family. We never expected he would end his life.
Dhanaji demanded that the chief minister visit your family before his last rites are performed. The entire village called for a bandh in protest against the government. But, so far, only a guardian minister has visited. Did you get any assurances from the government?
Santosh: We spoke to Fadnavis over the phone with the help of guardian minister Subhash Deshmukh. He promised that he will ensure a loan waiver and that the government will take care of our family. He also said that the government will pay for the education of my nephews. But this was just a telephonic conversation. Despite repetitive demands, we did not get anything in writing.
So, what are you expecting now?
Santosh: The government has said that they will waive off loans for small land-holders. But, in our experience, nothing ever comes out of such announcements – they never get fulfilled. We want firm assurances. Dhanaji ended his life demanding a loan waiver for farmers. His last wish should be fulfilled. Fadnavis should keep his word.
My brother had lost faith in the government. Now we want the government to fulfil his demands.
Chandrakant: I came to know that they have announced a loan waiver. But we don't know if we will ever get those benefits.
Published Date: Jun 09, 2017 16:31 PM | Updated Date: Jun 11, 2017 10:41 AM