Women victims

Print edition : February 03, 2017

The family of Lakshmi, who died after consuming pesticide at Sembarai village in Tiruchi district. Photo: B.Velankanni Raj

V.S. Jagadambal of Neermullai in Nagapattinam district. Photo: B.Velankanni Raj

WOMEN too are among the list of farmers who have died. On January 6, as the vehicle carrying Frontline team pulled into Nagapattinam district on the highway, seeing the signboard “Neermullai” photographer B. Velankanni Raj said: “Our list shows that a farmer from Neermullai had died of heart attack,” he said.

The farmer’s name was V.S. Jagadambal. As we made inquiries about her residence, an elderly woman murmured, “They claim that she died of heart attack on seeing the withered crop in the field.”

When we finally located Jagadambal’s residence, we found a house with tiled roof and a pucca, spacious house built of bricks and concrete in the same compound.

Her grandson, P. Bhoominathan, said Jagadambal was unwell for a day and she died the next day, on November 26, 2016. She was 65 years old.

When this reporter asked Bhoominathan whether Jagadambal had fever that day, the grandson was unable to reply. His stock reply was, “She was unwell and she died. She was in mental agony after the paddy crop had withered.”

Bhoominathan took us to the paddy fields, which were adjacent to the two houses. Nearby was the Nallaru irrigation canal, but it was dry.

“We lost Rs.25,000 an acre. We first did direct sowing of paddy. But the crop did not grow properly because there was no water to irrigate it,” said Bhoominathan. They broadcast the seeds again after ploughing the field with a tractor. But the crop was stunted for lack of water. “It rained a week ago. But it was too late. Only grass grew luxuriously along with the stunted paddy,” Bhoominathan said.

Lakshmi Raju, who was in her early 50s, took her life by consuming pesticide on December 25, 2016. She lived with her husband, Raju, daughters and a widowed daughter-in-law at Vinayakapuram in Sembarai village, Lalgudi taluk, Tiruchi district.

Raju had leased 2.5 acres for paddy cultivation on the edge of Thinniam village, about one km away. The rains failed. And the groundwater was salty. Since there was not enough water to irrigate the crop, the crop was stunted, Raju said. The family was in debt too. “Lakshmi wanted to know why I took the land on lease. I told her that if it rained, we can salvage the paddy,” Raju said.

Lakshmi consumed pesticide following an argument with Raju. She died in the ambulance that was taking her to the government hospital at Vaaladi.

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