Environment&Nature Personal&POV Social&Human Interest
In the drought-stricken Latur district of Maharashtra, it hasn’t rained in the past three years. Hundreds of farmers commit suicide in the district, and the national average is around 12,000-14,000 farmers every year. Together with 15 women from different villages, connected through a shared pain of losing a loved one, Sindhutai and Sanjeevani have taken a pledge— what has happened to them shouldn’t happen to others. With great effort, taking time off from their children, in-laws, families, domestic work and farms, every weekend they gather together to learn from Dr. Potdar, a psychologist and activist, about identifying signs of depression in their communities. Much to the regret of Sanjeevani and other women, they had noticed many direct and indirect signs but didn’t come to understand them as mental wounds.
The film will track the journey of these women as they learn, gather courage and counsel distressed male farmers in a deeply patriarchal society. As they will be confronted with the pain and suffering they once went through, their biggest challenge is to look inward and see if they have healed from their own loss before they can heal others.
In my opinion, in the 20 years of continuing crisis, with the suicides of more than 300,000 farmers, there is absurdly an absolute vacuum of films on the agrarian emergency. Perhaps the only film eight years ago, Nero’s Guests tried to address this vacuum, yet we owe the farmers a lot more, as the crisis deepens further. Indeed since 2016, the government stopped publishing annual data on the number of farmer suicides.
On a personal level, as an extremely anxious person, having an inherent fear of failure, I was deeply touched by the resilience of the women farmers amid the current agrarian crisis. Mothers and grandmothers who lost their husbands and sons to suicide have managed to learn from scratch how to plan finances, defy patriarchal norms of the village, repay loans that their husbands couldn’t and manage their farms single-handedly, all the while taking care of their children and elderly in-laws. I believe I have a lot to learn from them, and sharing their stories can inspire many others.