May 29th, 2015
Image: Ekta Europe | Source : Business Standard
Madhya Pradesh (MP) is experiencing a period of unseasonal rains and destructive hailstorms. This year, over 1.4 million acres of formerly arable land in the state has been devastated. This has made farmers in MP financially desperate and anxious. The situation has become so serious that in some cases farmers are selling their children to save themselves of rising debt. Nature’s erratic patterns and unreliable government aid has led farmers in MP to sell their children for ₹ 20,000 – 35,000.
When interviewed, the farmers said they knew this was illegal but they were forced to do so because of the widespread crop failure. A farmer, Lal Singh, sold his two sons for ₹ 35,000. When approached he said “I was in no position to repay the debt and needed more money to make ends meet and plant a crop.” Mr Singh sold his sons to shepherds. “Trading our children was wrong but we were forced to do this just to stay alive,” Mr Singh’s wife said. “Otherwise, like many other farmers, we too would have been forced to commit suicide.”
Governmental and non-governmental organizations are working in the area to stop child trafficking. Eight months after being sold into labour, Mr Singh’s children were among the five rescued. Sumit, 12, and Amit, 11 were taken to a local shelter. The children were initially reluctant to return to their family for fear of how their parents would react, officials said. “Our job was to look after the sheep and other animals,” Amit said. “(The shepherd) thrashed us over trivial issues. We were not given even two meals a day.” Authorities have ordered an investigation, while the shepherds who allegedly bought the five rescued children have been charged with the unlawful confinement of children and are awaiting trial.
The increasingly unpredictable weather patterns in MP have led to a growing spate of farmer suicides and child trafficking cases. There have been 40 farmer suicides since February in MP alone. The government has announced relief packages for farmers, but activists have claimed that the process of delivering relief is taking too long, with authorities still calculating the damage in some regions.