The unacceptable human cost of crop failure in India
Some observers are aware that the monsoon season in India this year has not followed normal patterns. The Indian farming system demands a reliable level of rainfall, and the scarcity of rain has caused massive crop failure in some areas of the country. Many readers realize that changes in weather patterns are one of the reasons to have concerns about global warming. However, it is the tragic human cost that occurs as a result of such phenomena that should resonate. Climatic changes are having disasterous social impact on traditional societies, and the latest developments in India deliver stark evidence of the price paid.
Farmers, who invested so as to increase their growing capacities, now find that with this cycle of crop failure they are unable to make them repayments. Devoid of any other saleable assets, some farmers have resorted to selling their wives to money lenders to garner hard currency. The going rate on this sad human trade is between $50-$150, depending on the attractiveness of the “bride”. The transaction is officially sealed with a legal stamp paper under the heading “Vivaha Anubandh” meaning Marriage Contract. The wife has no say in the matter, and to add even further damnation to the trade, when the new “husband” is tired of the woman, another man can purchase her in a resale transaction. Efforts are underway to combat the practice, but in remote regions such issues are difficult to curtail.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) is now sending a team to investigate the reports. Girija Vyas, chief of the NCW, said: “It is awful and unbelievable that it still happens in the country, and that too in Uttar Pradesh where the chief minister is a woman.
“We are sending a team to find out the details and have asked for the report within 24 hours.”
She added that the commission had also written a letter to the state’s chief minister.
One of the victims said: “My husband sold me to another man for Rs 8,000 (£100) only. My buyer took me to the court to make our wedding look legal. During the trip I got the chance to escape.”
In most cases, the women are illiterate and cannot read what is written in the “contract”. A farmer who helped expose the situation to the Indian media said he is now being harassed.
“I was summoned to the police station and questioned,” the man who is known only as Kalicharan said.
“I told them I had spoken to the media because no one was listening to us. But they threatened me and said I was lying. My wife was also called to the police station.”
With reports suggesting that thousands of farmers in the region are involved, the situation has spiralled into a major political crisis.