Report of State Level Public hearing
Bundelkhand region is known for its abundance of natural resources. Because of mismanagement and neglect of these very natural resources, once a prosperous region, Bundelkhand today is one of the poorest regions of the country. At present farmers’ suicides, hunger deaths, unemployment and continued migration plague Bundelkhand. The government schemes fail to reach the target people as the administration is blatantly corrupt.
Several efforts have been made at various levels to draw attention of the powers that be to the condition of extreme distress prevailing in the Bundelkhand region. The State Government has already declared all the seven districts of this region (Jhansi, Mahoba, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Lalitpur, Chitrakoot and Banda) drought affected. This step has, however, not brought any change in the lives of poorest of the poor of the Bundelkhand and the situation remains same.
Various media groups and well known journalists compare Bundelkhand with Kalahandi or Vidarbha. The entire Bundelkhand region is suffering from drought for the last five years. According to an estimate, 60 per cent of agriculture land is uncultivated. Farmers are unable to recover their cost of cultivation and they are forced to commit suicide. Approximately 400 farmers have committed suicide in this region. Continued hunger deaths, migration and corruption remain the same. Now the poor and victims are awaiting sustainable sources of livelihood.
Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan (ABSSS), Chitrakoot, is struggling for legal entitlements, food security and human rights in Bundelkhand for the last three decades. ABSSS identified and documented oppressed families in seven districts of Bundelkhand, viz, Hamirpur, Jhansi, Chitrakoot, Mahoba, Banda, Jalaun and Lalitpur.
Continuing its struggle, ABSSS has from time to time organised a public hearing at its headquarters with the objective to provide the victims a platform through which they can interact with senior and experienced judiciary members, bureaucrats, well known legal experts, scholars and media persons to enable them to understand real situation prevailing in Bundelkhand and take initiatives for redressal of the problems and pressurising the government. In the series of public hearings, ABSSS organised a “Farmers’ Suicides, Hunger Deaths, Poverty, Loan Recovery, Corruption and Exploitation in Bundelkhand Region” on Report on State Level Public Hearing 17 Dec 07 4December 17, 2007, at Chitrakoot with active participation and cooperation of PUCL, HRLN, IPT, local CBOs and POs.
Justice Mr Ram Bhushan Mehrotra chaired the jury panel. Justice Mr Rafiquddin, Justice Mr Colin Gonsalves, founder director of Human Rights Law Network, New Delhi, Ms Roop Rekha Verma, Former Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University, Lucknow, Mr SR Darapuri, former Inspector General of Police, and dalit rights thinkers were jury members.
Approximately 800 victims from different districts of Bundelkhand participated in the public hearing. A book Vaytha-Katha (Agony of Victims) which covers 82 case study of region was presented to the jury for better understanding of the cases. During the public hearing 18 cases of farmers’ suicides, 11 cases of hunger death, 39 cases of deprivation from government scheme, 6 cases out of 273 cases related to denial of job under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, three cases of exploitation, 2 cases out of 101 cases related to labour migration and 3 cases of fake loans were presented by the victims.
During the public hearing most of the victims of the region presented their problems in front of all. Drought or loan is not only the reason for the destruction of Bundelkhand but improper implementation and corruption in government schemes plays a big role in the destruction of Bundelkhand. The process of public hearing was completed with emotion, aggressiveness, tear and sorrow.