After Nana Patekar, Akshay Kumar has taken up the cause of drought-affected, debt-ridden farmers in Maharashtra; the star donates Rs 50 lakh to the government’s water conservation scheme
About a year ago, a deeply concerned Nana Patekar started a quiet drive to help farmers break out of a life of penury. In an interview with hitlist, Nana had expressed anguish at the abject state of farmers and the state government's apparent disregard to reasons behind their growing suicide rate all this while.
Akshay Kumar. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
"I am not doing a big deal. All of us want to help, but most of us are not sure if the money we want to give will reach the right people. So, I decided to visit these people myself and help them. Right now, it is of utmost importance. Today, I heard someone committed suicide. If, after 69 years of independence, we can't provide water and electricity to people, it is ridiculous," said Nana, who continues to work towards the farmers' cause.
Akshay Kumar (right) with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis
Taking a cue from his good work, perhaps, Akshay Kumar is now on a mission to help farmers. Last month, the star surprised everyone as he went up on stage post a fashion show in Delhi to request guests to donate for the cause. That evening he managed to raise around R50 lakh (this amount means providing food to 100 families for a month).
During the project, Eka Sadhya Satyasathi in Nagpur, Nana Patekar interacts with widows of farmers who committed suicide in Vidarbha region. pic/pti
Looks like that's not a stray act of kindness by him. Thrilled by the support he received, Akshay continues to do the good deed, requesting friends and others to loosen their purse strings for the purpose. A source close to Akshay says, "People don't mind giving money as they know that he will ensure that the money reaches the farmers directly. The people he meets, mostly non-industry people, have been making generous donations, to the tune of Rs 10-15 lakh. This shows that people do want to help; it is just they want to be sure that it reaches the deserving people."
Akshay has also been dipping into his own pocket to keep the movement alive. Quite recently, he donated Rs 50 lakh to the Maharashtra government's flagship Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan (local water conservation scheme).
Apart from this, the actor has got in touch with banks in some of the drought affected areas to draw up a list of farmers struggling with repayment of loans. Akshay is keen to settle the debt of farmers without their knowledge. "Imagine how happy the farmer will feel when he gets a letter saying that all his loans have been cleared," adds the source.
The Khiladi is also said to have left instructions with his bank to divert a certain amount of money towards the cause, thus directly helping at least 30 farmers in different areas.
When contacted, Akshay merely said, "It is a matter of concern, and I just hope more and more people get involved with this cause."
Amitabh Bachchan was quizzed about his contribution to the farmers' cause at the launch of his latest reality show, he seemed visibly embarrassed. After a brief pause, he said:
"I deliberately avoid talking about it since I am not comfortable sharing details of the work I do. But it has become tough to shield such matters. I have been doing it (helping farmers) for the last eight years. I read in the newspapers that farmers were committing suicide because they couldn't pay Rs 5,000 or Rs 10,000. I wanted to help them. So, I approached an institution and we drew up a list of 50 farmers who were on the verge of ending their lives due to huge outstanding debts. I settled their loans. Four or five years ago again in Vidharbha, a similar situation arose and I reached out to nearly 100 families."
Sr Bachchan remarked that Bollywood has always been responsive to issues that need attention. "The film industry is often criticised for staying away from such things (important causes). But that is not true. We are the only industry which comes forward whenever there is a tragedy or calamity. We are not villains. There is a heart in this industry too," the veteran actor said.
In August, Aamir Khan came forward to help drought-affected farmers of Maharashtra when he donated R11 lakh to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' rural water conservation programme, Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan. (Read full story)
The actor had met the CM earlier in March and shown interest in contributing to the scheme. Sources say Aamir will take part in creating public awareness for the water conservation mission, which extends to 6,202 villages across six districts. Inspired by the PK star, his eight-year-old fan reportedly donated her piggy bank savings to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund for drought-affected farmers.