Uttar Pradesh is in the middle of its biggest ever agrarian crisis. Over 3000 farmers have committed suicide in the last one year – a fact that goes largely unreported or under-reported. This is a State in which, before 1995, there was not a single documented farmer suicide. In such a situation, it is incumbent upon all public representatives to empathise and reach out to those affected, in their own way.

From 2013, I made a pledge to donate my entire Parliamentary salary for the last 4 years, and for the years to come that I would be an MP, to the families of those farmers in Uttar Pradesh who had committed suicide. We noticed that this was a new phenomena that was taking place in large numbers due to the worsening agrarian crisis in these parts.

After 2014, we decided to expand this into a movement, to scale-up the amount of people we helped by shifting the aim to help not just those who had perished but those marginal farmers on the brink of suicide.

To increase awareness regarding growing agrarian impoverishment amongst the people of the State and to get local communities to contribute, which would create a sustainable momentum, we isolated 3 indicators that would tell us if a farmer was on the brink of that drastic step:

  1. Farmers who had defaulted on their loan-repayment four times in a row.
  2. Farmers whose crops had been destroyed three cycles in a row; and
  3. Those that owned next to no fixed assets.

If a farmer suffered from all these conditions, there was a significant chance they might take their own life.

We contacted the local banks to help us get this information, and coupled with cooperation from the local administration, we managed to get a databank of the farmers desperately in need. We then sent volunteers to ascertain their real condition, assets, family landholding, any fallback provisions. After making a database of farmers to be helped and contacting them, the volunteers and I reached out to the local elite – lawyers, doctors, rich farmers, local businessmen, traders – providing them with a data on specific cases of farmers on the brink of bankruptcy, and requesting them to directly donate to them.

Other than donating myself, I was conscious that I did not want to create an NGO or an organisation, but simply act as a direct via-media between the giver and the marginal farmer. When we approached them, the local elite were earlier unaware of the scale of rural distress.

After giving me an audience and seeing the facts, figures and faces of those impoverished in their own background, they contributed very generously, given a mechanism that was free from questionable intermediaries and where they could directly contribute.

Twenty-one districts have been covered, including Agra Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Bahraich, Lakhimpur Kheri, Pratapgarh, Aligarh, Sultanpur, Sitapur, Moradabad and Allahabad. The amount of money that people have contributed so far is Rs 16.2 crores – 8000 people contributed approximately Rs 20,000 each. Approximately 3250 families were helped with an average of Rs 50,000 per person.I have personally contributed Rs 1.6 crores, helping over 300 families – with an average of Rs 50,000 per person.

Our next aim is to help 10,000 agrarian families in distress and work with technology professionals to create a platform in order to effectively do so.

We cannot afford to simply hope that our farmers will survive – our conscience cannot take their continuing perseverance for granted.