03/22/2007, 00.00
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A Caritas Campaign: “Save the farmers, Save India”

by Nirmala Carvalho
Caritas India will launch a national campaign in April with the slogan, “Save the farmers, Save India” in order to help the regretful phenomenon, which is spreading across the country: suicides amongst farmers. The loss of crops and insurmountable debt has driven farmers into poverty and desperation. They see suicide as the only way to salvation.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – “Save the Farmers, Save India” is the national campaign’s slogan that Caritas India will launch starting the first week of April in the hopes of alleviating the rate of suicides amongst the indebted farmers.
Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India said, “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's package has not brought a solution to the plight of distressed farmers across the country. Their rising suicides have become a national shame. Hence we have decided to launch a campaign to save farmers.” The suicides of the poor and hapless farmers, he added, should not become “cold national statistics.” “We will put pressure on the Central State and we will work as a catalyst and mobilize resources to reach out effectively to the families of farmers who have killed themselves.”
Unfortunately, this campaign was too late to save six farmers in the eastern region of Vidarbha who took their lives in the last three days due to insurmountable debt.
The police say that on Saturday, Ambadas Morkar, 65, poisoned himself. He was from the village of Shivagi Nagar Dhamni on the border with Washim. In the same district, another indebted farmer Barbarao Motiram Mhatarmare from the village of Mohi, killed himself. On the 19th of March, Dnyaneshwar Baliram Khadke, 45, of Yelgaon village bordering Buldana district also died after poisoning himself. The president of the Vidarbha region noted that besides these farmers, another three farmers took their lives on Sunday the 18th of March: G A Kale Magurla Khed and Kapil Yadav Bhavre Tadsawli from Yavatmail and R G Navate di Wardha.
Given the tragic situation of the farmers the Archbishop of Mumbai has pushed the diocese to celebrate Lent with prayers, penance, and with effective and significant charity work.
The Archdiocese of Bombay’s news weekly reported the Archbishop’s Lenten appeal urging the faithful to think of those farmers from Vidarbha who have been severely affected by drought for the last several years and were therefore driven to take their own lives.
The message of the Archbishop: “The failure of crops in the recent successive years has caused a dire situation for our farmers in the Vidarbha region. Those who have taken loans from banks now see no possibility of repaying them. Afflicted by crippling poverty and feeling a sense of hopelessness they have been driven to despair and see suicide as the only way out. According to available statistics, 1864 farmers have committed suicide in this region and an estimated 5000 farmers have killed themselves in India in the last six years. We cannot be indifferent in front of this situation, which affects entire families. Not having enough money, they eat less and become weak, and then they fall ill. The children abandon their studies, and with it they leave behind a chance for a better life. We cannot be insensitive before the agony of the women that without doubt are the ones who are affected the most by this situation. A wife who loses her husband is left without an income and with many mouths to feed at home. And from the moment in which the entire community of farmers is in a similar predicament it becomes impossible for her to receive help from her neighbors and relatives. If her family were to provide her with food they themselves would go hungry.
Driven by solidarity for our brothers and sisters who are suffering, I am sending a group guided by the Archdiocesan Director, Centre for Social Action so that he may study the situation. By means of the church structures in the different diocese affected we hope to be able to provide these families with assistance. I encourage our people, in the spirit of Lent, to be generous and to give donations to this cause.”
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