Bhopal: First came the denial, then warning, but finally, help did reach Sardar Barela and daughters Radha, 14, and Kunti, 11.
Two days after a video footage showing the poor farmer in Madhya Pradesh using his two daughters pulling the plough emerged, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has stepped in to help the tribal farmer in the Chief Minister’s home district, Sehore.
The state administration has given him a below poverty line card that will get them subsidised ration and access to benefits and farm equipment that will help him clear out the weeds from the fields on his own. And daughter Radha can go back to school.
The district administration has re-admitted the teenager who had to quit school due to financial constraints. For now, he won’t have to pay a paisa for her education. The authorities are also trying to get the younger sister enrolled in school.
“As soon as we got the news, we sent the Chief Executive Officer of the Janpad panchayat and provided him immediate help, whether it is agricultural equipment or the school education department’s scheme,” said Chandramohan Mishra, the district’s additional collector.
The district administration’s first reaction to the video was to debunk the video, pointing that the farmer had sown maize and pulses on encroached land of the forest department. It also stressed that the girls weren’t being used to till the land but only remove the weeds.
A video shot on mobile phone also shows panchayat secretary Lal Mian warning Sardar Barela not to use his daughters at the farm again. “You are not even a farmer. You will go to jail. Don’t do this,” the official who has had some answering to do, told them. The farmer later told NDTV about the conversation. “He was threatening us… You can ask my daughters,” he said.
The help came after NDTV contacted district collector Arun Kumar Pithode.
There have been a few offers of help as well. Moved by the NDTV story, Karnataka Energy Minister DK Sivakumar announced on Twitter that he was sending Rs 50,000 for the farmer.
I am sending a DD via the Madhya Pradesh Mahila Congress President to the Farmer in the hope that he can buy Oxen & let his daughters study. pic.twitter.com/rlLz3JMD9y
— DK Shivakumar (@withDKS) July 10, 2017
Sehore district, according to official figures, has a higher proportion of people under the poverty line than the state’s average. Agriculture, like in many other parts of the state, is the mainstay of people in this tribal-dominated village. Of the 51 farmers to have committed suicide due to financial problems in Madhya Pradesh over the last one month, the highest, 11, were in Sehore.