Bhopal: The iconic scene in Mehboob Khan’s classic, ‘Mother India’, where actor Nargis was seen in place of the ox, ploughing her field due to poverty, is reality in Madhya Pradesh’s Ratlam district.
Debt-ridden farmer Jagdish Dhakkad ploughed his field with the help of his daughter, Radha Kumari (20), as they had no money for bullocks or to hire a tractor.
The film sequence literally came to life at Sherpur village, about 340 kilometres away from the state’s capital city of Bhopal, situated in the outskirts of Alot Panchayat of Ratlam district.
The lockdown due to COVID-19 left the 49-year-old farmer with no money to hire a tractor to plough his one-acre plot of land for monsoon crops. He also failed to buy an ox for the same. Left with no other option, Jagdish ploughed the field with the help of his daughter, Radha.
“Neither do I have money to purchase the bulls, nor enough to hire a tractor and pay for its fuel,” said Jagdish. He broke down while narrating his ordeal. “One needs fuel worth Rs 300 to Rs 400 to plough an acre of land, but I do not even have that much money,” he added.
The three-month lockdown, coupled with the rising fuel prices are making life difficult for farmers in the region.
“The constant increase in fuel prices is making our lives hell. Everything from seeds to fertilisers have become costlier. We are hardly making both ends meet. I have taken loans from a few relatives and am pinning my hope on monsoon crops to repay their debt. I plead with the government to come to our rescue before it’s too late,” he added.
His daughter, Radha Kumari, said that she was “happy” to help her father “times of distress. The government must look after poor farmers and reconsider its decision of a fuel-price hike, else it would be very difficult for agriculture workers to graze land."
Speaking about his daughter, Jagdish said she wants to attend college for higher education, but instead, she is ploughing the field with him because they are penniless.
Virendra Singh Solanki, farmer leader and former chairman of the district cooperative bank, said the incident was enough to prove the government's failure.
“At a time when the government stressed upon ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ and planned various schemes for the upliftment of the girl child and talks about women empowerment, the reality on ground-zero is shocking,” Solanki said.
“Even after 70 years of independence, a farmer is forced to use his daughter to graze the land. There is nothing more shameful than that. The district collector should immediately help them,” Solanki demanded.
NewsClick reached out to Jamuna Bhide, the Additional District Magistrate of Ratlam, who said: "The administration was not aware of this incident. It's a shocking incident; we will try to reach out to the farmer and give him aid."
State Agriculture Minister Kamal Patel did not respond to calls despite several attempts.