The landmark scene of Mehboob Khan's film, 'Mother India', in which actress Nargis ploughed fields due to the poverty comes to life in Madhya Pradesh's Ratlam district.
The incident is from Sherpur village, situated on the outskirts of Alot Panchayat of Ratlam District. Jagdish Dhakkad, a debt-ridden farmer, is forced to employ his daughter Radha Kumari, 20, to plough his one-acre land.
The COVID-19 lockdown left the 49-year-old farmer no money to hire tractor or bullocks to plough the fields for monsoon crops. Besides, he failed to buy ox for the same. Hence, left with no option, Jagdish with the help of his daughter Radha ploughed the field.
"Neither I have money to purchase the bulls nor to hire a tractor and for its fuel," said Jagdish. He broke down while narrating his ordeal.
"Normally, one needs fuel worth around Rs 300 to Rs 400 to plough an acre, but I do not have even that much of money," he added.
During the lockdown, most of the farmers were neither able to work on their fields nor were they found an alternate source of income. On the other hand, farming was not possible as fertiliser shops and markets were closed. As a result, their savings dried up rapidly.
The three months lockdown and the skyrocketing price of fuel are making life difficult for farmers in the region. "The constant increase in fuel prices is making their lives hell. From seeds to fertiliser everything has become costlier. We are hardly earning to make ends meet," Jagdish said.
"I have borrowed money from a few relatives and pinning hope for monsoon crops to repay the debt. I plead the government to come to their rescue before it's too late," he added.
When asked, Radha Kumari said, "She is happy to serve her father in times of distress. The government must look after the poor farmers and reconsider its decision of fuel price hike, or else it would be very difficult for agriculture workers to graze the land."
Talking about his daughter, Jagdish said that she wants to attend college for higher education, but, instead, she is ploughing the field as bullock because as there is not a single penny left.
A similar incident was reported in Mathurakheda village of Agar-Malwa district, where two daughters of 65-year-old Kumer Singh, Jamuna, 18, and Madhu, 17, ploughed their two acres land due to cash crunch.
Due to the financial crisis, Jamuna dropped out of school in class seven, while Madhu dropped out after class four.
"Our savings had dried up during the lockdown. I am left with no money to hire a tractor or buy the bulls for the ploughing the field for the monsoon crops. I went to sarpanch for help but he declined," said Singh.
"Seeing the ordeal of their father, both daughters came to help. They helped in ploughing two acres of land," he said adding that if monsoon crops sold well, he would marry both the girls.
A villager Kamal Singh informed that Kumer Singh's home was drastically damaged in the recent storm. The villagers help his family to rebuild the home.
Taking a cue from the incidents, farmer leader and former chairman of district cooperative Bank, Ratlam, Virendra Singh Solanki came down heavily on the state government saying that the incident was enough to prove the government's failure.
"At a time when the government emphasised on Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and planned various schemes for the upliftment of the girl child and is talking about women empowerment, the reality is shocking," Solanki added.
"Even after 70 years of independence, a farmer is forced to use his daughter to plough the land. Nothing can be more shameful. The district collector should immediately help them," Solanki demanded.
Reacting over the incidents, farmer leader Shivkumar Shukla said, "This is tragic incidents. The lockdown has left farmers penniless that's why such situation have been emerging. Govt should take immediate action to help such needy people."
When contacted, Additional District Magistrate, Ratlam, Jamuna Bhide said, "The administration was not aware of this incident. It's a shocking incident, we will try to reach out to the farmer and aid him."
State Agriculture Minister Kamal Patel did not respond to the calls despite several attempts.