Suffering in silence

Published : Dec 03, 2004 00:00 IST

The wife (right) and sister of 22-year-old Mangilal Bishnoi, who was killed in the police firing. -

The wife (right) and sister of 22-year-old Mangilal Bishnoi, who was killed in the police firing. -

IN village 5 KD - named after the Kodi Bandh Distributary - in Rawala tehsil, 5 km away from Ghadsana, a pregnant Suman wept silently for her husband Mangilal Bishnoi, who was killed in the police action on farmers. Her mother-in-law has been put on saline drips, as she was taken ill after learning that her first-born was no more. Mangilal's two-year-old child has been sent off to her maternal grandparents' place.

Tulsi, who comforts Suman, is a zamindar. She says that the well-being of the village depends on the well-being of the zamindar. "When we ourselves are suffering, you can understand what is happening to these landless people," she says. Another mourner, Surjeet Kaur, says that the government wanted parents to send their children to school. "But how can we, when there is hardly anything to eat?" she says. The mid-day meal is not served, she says, and even the grain that is due to the old and infirm under the Antyodaya Yojana was not reaching the village. "Why can't the government start drought-relief work? Earlier, labour used to come from Alwar (in east Rajasthan) to work on the fields here, now we go to work in far-off fields," she says.

"They have released the water only now. If they had done it earlier, farmers could have sown the crop," says Brijlal Bishnoi, Mangilal's father. The village has been going through a water crisis for the last five years. Residents who once had 20 or 25 buffaloes are now left with a few head of cattle. There was a protest in Rawala against the police action in Ghadsana. "When curfew was imposed, women were offering tea to the policemen, not knowing what it meant. We have never witnessed anything like this in the past," said Brijlal.

Grain traders in the town say that agricultural production has been on the decline since 1998. As per figures available with the Agricultural Produce Warehouse Society, the declining procurement of wheat and cotton crops has resulted in a dip in Rawala's warehouse revenues since 1998. The procurement of cotton in 2003-2004 was nil, indicating a total failure of the kharif crop.

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