Dead crop

Print edition : February 03, 2017

The family of Azhakesan, who died in his paddy field at Adhichapuram in Tiruvarur district. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj

AZHAKESAN, 45, of Adhichapuram, Kottur in Mannargudi taluk of Tiruvarur district blacked out in his field on seeing the withered crop. He died of a heart attack soon after. Azhakesan is survived by his wife, Arokiya Mary, daughters Ilakkiya and Yogapriya, son Akilavanan and parents, Thangaiyya and Amirthavalli. Ilakkiya is studying in an engineering college and Yogapriya and Akilavanan are in school. Seventy-year-old K. Thangavelu, his neighbour and district secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), said Azhakesan had taken two acres on lease for Rs.9,000 an acre. He bought seeds and hired a tractor four times to prepare the land.

He adopted the practice of sowing paddy directly because there was no water in the nearby irrigation channel to prepare a nursery and transplant the saplings. “He used to consult his wife on everything. She told him not to take the land on lease,” Thangavelu said.

On November 4, Azhakesan visited his field and saw that the crop he had raised had withered following the failure of the north-east monsoon. “Farmers in the neighbouring field saw him lying unconscious and brought him home. We rang up 108 ambulance [government-run emergency service]. The medical staff in the ambulance said he was already dead. We informed the village administrative officer [VAO] about Azhakesan’s death. We sent the body for post-mortem. The report was that he died of a heart attack,” said Thangavelu.

After Azhakesan’s death, the residents of Adichapuram blocked the road to pressure the government to take steps for the welfare of farmers. “The tahsildar and the Revenue Department officials arrived on the scene but nothing worthwhile happened,” said K. Ramaiyya, 40, a social worker and farmer.

What appalled Thangavelu was the officials’ attitude towards the family of Azhakesan. “When Arokiya Mary presented a petition to the tahsildar seeking financial relief from the Uzhavar Paadhukappu Thittam [Scheme for the Protection of Farmers], he said the petition should be given to the special tahsildar in charge of the scheme. When she approached the special tahsildar, he said financial relief could be given under the scheme only to farmers who had died in accidents. Then the tahsildar told the special tahsildar to merely accept our petition. The special tahsildar ‘accepted’ our petition and rejected it,” he said.

With its only breadwinner dead, the family of Azhakesan faces a bleak future.

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