Monday May 22, 2017 11:11 PM EST

Mejindarpal Kaur, Director, United Sikhs | Peshawar, Pakistan
Posted: 04:02 PM | February 22, 2011

Help For Farmer-Suicide Widows

Help Farmer-Suicide Widows

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Sangrur, Punjab - This week 50 women, widowed when their farmer-husbands committed suicide, will receive monthly pensions for their families from UNITED SIKHS under its ‘Rescue A Family’ pension plan initiated last October, but thousands more are in need of your support.

The need for a pension plan became apparent in August when UNITED SIKHS went to the Sangrur district to donate cash relief to 50 farming families that had lost their crops in the July flooding of the Ghaggar River.

We visited 16 of the 27 villages in the Lehran subdivision where farms were destroyed. I personally distributed the relief money. Each of the 50 families received Rs 5,000. A total of Rs 2.5 lakhs was distributed in one day. Sadly we were not able to help every needy family. Most were still awaiting their Rs 5,000 pensions promised by the Punjab state government, delayed because of administrative bureaucracy.

The recipient families were identified with the help of village elders. But among them were these widows of farmers who were so financially devastated that they committed suicide. They left nothing behind for their families but more debt. The widows became the sole supporter for their families.

Thousands of families find themselves in this desperate position. A study by the Punjab Agricultural University, in the Batinda and Sangrur districts, indicates that 2,890 farmers committed suicides between 2000 and 2008. The study is ongoing for the remaining 18 districts of Punjab. The result will paint a bigger picture of the farmer suicide problem.

The Punjab state government has only recently begun acknowledging the farmer-suicide problem, which it previously dismissed as non-existent. The state has set up a pension fund for these widows but not all have received it. And, in any case, it is minimal at Rs 250 per month.

Among the first to feel the brunt of a farmer-suicide are the children left behind. These kids drop out of school and labour in the fields to feed their families. The cycle of poverty continues, and every year another crop of suicides is harvested in the Punjab, India’s breadbasket.

The RAF pension program began as an aid project for these widows, with the help of our local partner, the Baba Nanak Education Society.

We identified 50 widows of suicide-farmers in the same region, and asked for donations to provide monthly cash assistance from the next month onward. Each farmer-suicide family will now receive between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500 (up to £20, $32 USD) per month for as long as their children remain in school. These pensions are paid into bank accounts that we opened for them.

Donors from the United Kingdom, Thailand, Singapore, Canada, the United States and Switzerland support these pensions. A list of farmer-suicide families who are currently receiving the RAF pensions can be seen here.

We have identified 300 more families who are in immediate need. We can stop the cycle of poverty for these families in Punjab. But we can only do it with your help.

You can make your yearly or monthly donation via PayPal at or by bank remittance, direct debit or cheques by contacting the UNITED SIKHS office.

_________________________

Commentaries are the opinions of the authors, and not necessarily that of Sikh News Network.





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