Candle in the wind is a disturbing, 52-minute documentary. Screened at Goethe Zentrum on Saturday evening, it was seen with rapt attention by a group of viewers who were students and working professionals. This 2012 venture, directed by Kavita Bahl and Nandan Saxena, highlights the farmer suicides escalating in Punjab where the widows are facing a major crisis, yet re-negotiating their spaces in a patriarchal society as the production poignantly captures.
Saraswati Kavula, a civil society activist and an organic farmer introduced the film’s theme – the threat of chemical farming which is prevalent across the country. She added that this documentary shows the miserable lives of the farmers who were victims of the above method in Punjab - the much-vaunted laboratory of the Green Revolution in India – and found no way to improve their livelihoods.
Small and marginal farmers are taking their lives to escape the cycle of debt and misery. Women who never thought their men would desert them in this way are finding it difficult to their find feet. The patriarchal society does not let them step out of home and take independent decisions. It is do or die for them, says the film.
Specifically, as the documentary points out, Punjab’s ruin has been so slow that it has taken people by surprise. The rise in the cost of agriculture and the policy of turning Punjab into a mono-culture state – growing only two crops by rotation – wheat and rice – are some of the reasons behind the ruining of agriculture and the farmers in Punjab. Yet, the state stands in denial.
Nothing illustrates this debilitating status of the women as one of the widows recounts in the documentary: ‘What use is agriculture if it does not feed us but crushes us under debt?’ This film had been screened at the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival at Greece recently and has found favour with activists in the farming sector striving to take on the multinational seed lobbies and genetically modified seed supporters. It is a moot point that organic farming is yet to catch up in India despite it being more productive and its yield per acre comfortably better than the chemical farming methods.
With election campaigns underway, the issue of farmer’s suicide is bound to get centrestage once again in the political domain. Informative films like this will add to their weightage.