Amravati:  Farmers in Vidarbha district of Maharashtra are a desperate lot. Poverty has pushed them to do the unthinkable.

Kishan Rao Dapurkar, a farmer, is tilling his land using his sons instead of bullocks.

“Our financial condition is very bad; we don’t have the money to hire bullocks,” said Mr Dapurkar’s son.

The Dapurkars live in the village of Sirkhed in Maharashtra’s Amravati district, where the rains have failed two years in a row.

 So while Mr Dapurkar is above the poverty line, because he owns 8 acres of land, his land has produced little and he is deep in debt, like most other marginal farmers in the area, unable to keep bullocks or hire a pair for Rs.1000 a day.

“A pair of bullocks cost at least Rs. 20,000 and without these animals we cannot till our land. The wages of agricultural labour have also crossed Rs. 250 a day. Farming is unviable,” said a farmer.

After the Dapurkars’ situation was highlighted by a local daily, district officials agreed to provide power to operate the well – the father and sons dug with their own hands – but their demand for a pair of bullocks was turned down.

“This scheme of providing bullocks is only for SC/ST and they are OBCs. They are not even BPL card holders,” said Dinkar Kale, SDO Morshi.

Pandurang Phundkar, leader of the opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council, has condemned the poor state of farmers in Vidarbha and has blamed the ruling Congress for misusing the farmers’ relief package.

“Congress leaders misused the package for Vidarbha farmers. The amount never reached the farmers. The incident in Amravati district is very tragic. He had no money for cultivation. With hardly any money, he used his sons, instead of bullocks to till the land,” said Pandurang Phundkar.

The rain fed fields need to be ploughed by bullocks, but the deepening poverty in this region is forcing more and more men to take over this task.

“If we cannot hire bullocks and the farm size is small, farmers are increasingly ploughing the fields themselves,” said Ramesh Autkar, farmer.

Ramesh Autkar’s 24 year old son, Pavan, planted soya on four acres in the beginning of June after the first showers. But in the six week dry spell that followed, the crop was destroyed. An inconsolable Pavan killed himself on the 7th of this month.

And for other families in the region, like the Dapurkars it’s an option that is always alive.