New Delhi, Jan 28 (PTI) As India witnesses its biggest-ever farmers' agitation, a new book by journalist Kavitha Iyer takes a close look at several of the deeper issues that have afflicted the farming community for decades.
'Landscapes Of Loss: The Story of an Indian Drought' tells the story of Marathwada - with its stunning basalt hills, scorched brown earth, the flaming reds and pinks the locals wear - through the accounts of its people: marginal farmers, Dalits, landless labourers, farm widows and children.
Marathwada - a historically-backward part of Maharashtra, adjoining the distressed Vidarbha region and home to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ajanta and Ellora caves - has seen a surge in farmer suicides.
At the heart of the crisis is a cyclical drought that has persisted for almost a decade. Multiple relief packages and loan waivers have not reversed the trend.
On the contrary, the stories of dystopia grow more tragic every year as thousands of farmer families flee to the big cities, while those who stay back are plagued by bad credit and crop loss.
Iyer says our response to the ongoing farmers' struggle is evidence, once again, of how distant and disconnected one half of the country is from the other.
'It's time to grapple with the wider questions of how to feed a world of 10 billion people by 2050 while also caring for our scarce resources, so we can ill afford to be so alienated from the cyclical tragedies visiting the vast majority of Indian agriculturists,' she says.
According to Iyer, if there is one ray of hope in Delhi's current siege, it is not that a broken system can find a quick fix but that the rest of India will be able to see and meet India's farmers, hear their accounts, view their long struggle in the context of their life's work, not just vis-a-vis the three new laws and their blockade.
'The current recriminations do not present the wider story of the Indian farmers trapped in lifetimes of cyclical losses,' she says.
She also says that her hope with 'Landscapes of Loss' was to do just that: 'to introduce readers to real people, their very real everyday struggles, their occasional triumphs and their unremitting agitations requesting justice.' In writing about the cyclical drought, the author presents a story representative of the unrest in large parts of rural India.
'From Nashik to Delhi, from Marathwada's flooded fields and losses this La Nina year to the unpaid dues of Uttar Pradesh's sugarcane farmers, the message from the fields is that Indian agriculture is broken,' she says.
'And farmers, landless labourers, tenant farmers and women farmers have all described the fault lines in great detail. And yet, in a world more connected than ever, the two Indias couldn't be farther apart, or more mistrustful of each other, unheeding and unseeing,' Iyer writes in the book, published by HarperCollins India. PTI ZMN RDS RDS