MUMBAI: Two years after Tarabai Baban Padole’s farmer-husband committed suicide in Nashik, she is back on her feet. She has not just shouldered the responsibility of her family in Sonewadi village, she is managing her farm well enough to think of repaying the loans that snatched Baban away. The change has been rung in by a timely Rs 67,000 given to her by Vinayakdada Patil, the driving force behind the “Navjeevan” pr oject run by the Maharashtra Institute of Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (MITTRA).
Tarabai is a stunning example of the change brought into people’s lives by the Navjeevan project that tries to rehabilitate farmers in distress by helping them develop part of their farmland for horticulture crops. The two-year-old project provides them hope by offering innovative solutions.
“When we approached Tarabai, she told us she would be able to rejuvenate her grape farm if she gets some help for the angles and wires to support the plants. We did that. The cost was Rs 67,000,” said Patil, a former Maharashtra minister known for his passion for agriculture. The latest progress report of the Navjeevan project shows that Tarabai was able to generate an income of Rs 4,96,000 last year out of grapes and tomato.
“Apart from grapes, this year I’ve sown soybean, maize, wheat and onion. This will help me generate a steady flow of income through the year. I’ll be able to develop another grape farm when the land under wheat is free after the crop is harvested,” Tarabai said.
“We were doing well till we had one acre of grape farm. The problem began when my husband tried to double it. He took a huge loan of Rs 12 lakh from the bank. He also borrowed around Rs 5 lakh from various lenders in our village. When he realised it was difficult to repay the loan, he committed suicide,” she added.
Throwing light on how she handled the family and her work after her husband’s death, she said: “I harvested the crops and repaid all small debts from lenders in the village. That created a confidence about me and now the pesticide and fertilizer dealers lend me on credit.”
Patil, on whose insistence the MITTRA came into existence in 1993 as a professionally run NGO, said the point behind the Navjeevan project was to provide the “missing link” to farmers in distress. Maharashtra has logged the highest number of farmer suicides in the past few years.
“A farm needs several resources and there is a long chain in making every resource work for it. Even if a small link in the chain is missing, the farm goes into distress. Our project tries to find that missing link and lend farmers a helping hand as well as knowhow,” he said.
“Pomegranate, drumsticks, lemon, guava and custard apple are the horticultural crops that can be grown in our area and they have a good market. So, we conceived the project around these crops. Tarabai is the only exception who is growing grapes,” he added.
“Our policy of visiting the farm and home of a farmer who has committed suicide helped us identify the needs of the families they left behind. The program is being implemented on 32 farms at the moment,” he added.