Farmer relief: Celebs lead from the front as politicians lag behind

When victims of any tragedy feel that the government has fallen short of helping them, it is expected of society to step in to find a solution to their particular problem. And, the society needs ‘unblemished’ leaders to show it the right path.

Central Maharashtra which is also known as Marathwada and neighbouring Vidarbha, where thousands of distressed farmers have committed suicide in the past one decade, witnessed a positive development last week. If it goes well in the days to come, it will surely supplement the government in areas where its machinery hasn’t worked with compassion.

This is about two individuals from a sector which usually shies way from fiddling with socioeconomic issues which may have direct connections with politicians.

Not many know that one of them has been doing his part in social welfare for long, simply because he despises publicity despite being immensely popular in the Indian film industry and theatre. That’s Nana Patekar for you. The other is a low-profile Marathi film star Makarand Anaspure.

The two have joined hands to extend a helping hand to distressed families that face a bleak future.

With heads of the families gone, and the local community treating tragedies with indifference because it has become a routine, the actors have found that a humane approach is needed in dealing with a very complicated issue. They have decided to support widows not only financially but also ensure that the local communities support them emotionally to meet the challenge of raising their helpless children. The actors raised R25 lakh between them for financial aid to some 150 widows. They want something permanent to be done to help the distressed sustain a living in the future.

A friend sent me a video of Patekar’s low-key function in which a widow from Beed, Jyoti Morale, whose husband Mahadev ended his life on June 1 this year echoes the wish of other women who have undergone a similar trauma. Her humble appeal should be an eye-opener for all, the government included. “You helped me today, but what about tomorrow? I want to you to give me work so that I can earn to raise my three children. Please, please, help widows like me to be part of this society again. We will be both fathers and mothers to our children…” she says, before collapsing on the dais because of pent-up emotional strain.

Barely able to hold back his tears, Patekar tells the gathering that they should not worry about what the government does or not, and appeals to them to stand with distressed families. He fears that a farm widow’s child may head for the jungle to become a Naxalite if we don’t give him the right to live.

Celebrities doing charity aren’t a rarity in our country. I remember former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar helping out a farmers’ group in suicide-affected Wardha district with a handsome contribution three years ago. He had consciously avoided publicity then. The farmers’ group hasn’t been able to yield desired results as yet, but I’m told they are doing their best to resurrect a milk cooperative they built through contributions from Manjrekar and some people who had parted with their retirement benefits to assist the cause.

If resourceful individuals are doing their bit, is it wrong to expect filthy rich politicians to do the same? The political parties are an inseparable part of our society and each one of them is packed with leaders who have built cash-rich empires using the concessions extended by the governments. We have seen their individual and family wealth increasing manifold every election, though their affidavits may not reflect the ‘total’ reality. We don’t have leaders who are ready to part with a little portion of their wealth for charity. They spend money, mostly in black, only when elections knock their doors.

They say there is always exception. The Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtna has proved to be different, building a home for a suicide-affected Dhok family of village Khanapur in Amravati district. A widow and her three daughters have a house of their own.

Should we then hope that the initiative from celebrities and Swabhimani inspires many others to help distressed people, be it farmers or others, without waiting for the government because the needy may not be able to crack a maze called the system?

The writer is Political Editor of mid-day

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