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28.2.11

It is a juxtaposition of contraries that has now become ironic. Even though Punjab government has found a negligible number of farmers who merit Rs 2 lakh compensation, given to those who are driven to suicide because of debt, a Dutch researcher has been overwhelmed by the tragedy which has almost become an every house tale in the villages.

Tom Deiters, who had come to India six years ago to carry out research on farmer suicides in Lehragaga area, as an academic exercise, was moved by the destruction that the pesticides were wreaking that he decided to stay-on for a longer time.

His documentary "Toxic Tears" profiles the heart-broken men and women in Punjab's villages who had lost their sons to the faulty farming practices. An old woman, her face heavily creased with age, in Chottian village, broke down as she narrated how her eldest son had drunk the very pesticide, which had trapped him in a debt, to end his life four years ago.

A year later, her younger son, unable to tolerate a failed crop and more debt, followed suit. Tom, whose thesis was for doing Masters in International Relations, a part of political science, at the University of Amsterdam in Holland, is now using the Punjab model, to highlight how globalization is far removed from reality. "The evils of so called "green revolution" are so stark in Punjab," said Tom Deiters, while talking to TOI.

"I want to use Punjab's example to show how the policy makers are not connected to the reality. This is important because other states in India like Bihar want to follow Punjab's footsteps," he said. Frustrated by the pattern of the vicious trap that he had seen replicated across the villages, Toxic Tears, highlights how motivated people, especially commission agents, are taking pains to deny the very existence of farmers' suicides.

"Farmers are borrowing money at outrageous rates from agents, many of whom are doubling up as agents of pesticides and fertilizers. There is a strong bias at work, "said Tom, who is now more focused on solutions. Punjab government too had been in a state of denial regarding the suicides and had maintained that these were only isolated cases.

"Organic farming, free of chemicals, is a way out, though it has own set of problems. But, there are farmers who are waking up to this fact. I am trying to map organic farmers in Punjab and start a self help group. The organic farmers can get together, learn from each others' experience, market their produce together and watch the community's interests, " said Tom Deiters who has travelled extensively to Europe to study organic farming.

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