A tribal farmer, steeped in debt and hit by Covid-19, consumed pesticides to kill himself in Gujarat’s Navsari on Wednesday night.
Nilesh Patel waited for the fervently promised ‘Achhe din’, but they never came. At least not in his lifetime. He had been hoping that they would arrive – if not within the promised 100 days, then in the next 1,000 days at least.
A resident of Navsari, Gujarat, Nilesh’s debts kept mounting and his farm returns diminishing. The Dangar cultivation he was so hopeful about turned out to be a dud. Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, natural calamities like Cyclone Tautkae that hit the region three months ago and the shortage of rainfall only made his situation worse.
Like most people in Navsari, the constituency of Gujarat BJP President C R Patil who won with a record margin of 6.89 lakh votes (a whopping 74.37% votes), Nilesh and his family had voted for the saffron party.
The Patel surname is a misnomer. Nilesh’s family are tribals with little patches of land. The 35-year-old was the sole earning member in a family of six. His aged parents needed medications but in the last two months, his family even struggled to find one square meal a day.
In Navsari’s Ruzvani village, Nilesh’s story is a gruesome reality in almost every household where desperate farmers curse their fate, the government and kudrat (nature). Nilesh did borrow some money but then Ruzvani has several like him and even the lendings were sparse.
Then even the loans stopped. On Wednesday night, he had dinner with his entire family, offered pranam to his aged parents, hugged his wife, kissed his five-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter and announced: “I will go to our farm for a bit and come back soon.”
He never did. Maybe he went to his farm for his last goodbye. His family found him on the farm, mouth frothing. He had apparently consumed pesticides. he was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival.
All this took place in the model state of Gujarat.
Nilesh, a poor unemployed man whose farming could not sustain him became yet another statistic in the government’s burgeoning records gathering dust in some office corner. Farmer suicides is not a concept exclusive to Vidarbha or the North. In Gujarat, records have often proved juggling of figures.
The ruling BJP government is excellent at manipulating figures, alleges Congress leader Arjun Modhvadia. He fails to mention that nor his party or the Aam Aadmi Party, which is trying to find its footing in the state, haven’t done anything substantial to address the issue either except for using it as a poll plank.
Nilesh’s wife Nitaben (name changed on request) describes the horror of Wednesday night. She says she woke up at midnight, and when she did not see her husband next to her, she assumed he might have gone out to drink water or use the washroom.
“Initially, I thought he will come back in a while but when he didn’t return for over 30 minutes, I knew something was wrong. I woke up my in-laws and together we looked around and eventually ran to the farm. He was lying unconscious in the middle of the farm.”
The family dialled emergency number 108 and took Nilesh to Dharmpur hospital, Rushiyant Sharma of Mantavya news infromed.
Nilesh’s uncle Sureshbhai Naginbhai Patel, 60, who is also a farmer and stays nearby said, “He had been tense for a few months due to unpaid debts and the increasing prices of pesticides. I still can’t believe he took such an extreme step.”
When Vibes of India contacted DySP SG Rana, Navsari district, he said, “The family members of the tribal community are occupied with the last rights of Nileshbhai. It is alleged that he died of suicide as he was bothered by debt and the increase in the prices of pesticides. We are still investigating the case to verify the reason. There is no suicide note.”
When Vibes of India contacted PSI SS Mal of Navsari district, she said “We got a call from the Dharmpur hospital yesterday (Aug 25) afternoon after Nilesh passed away. When we reached the spot, we talked to his family, they shared few reasons for this extreme step but nothing concrete has come up yet. This is a village with a tribal population and most of them are marginal farmers.”