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Ditched by PM, suicide hamlet fasts Kolzari struck off at last minute

Nagpur, July 1: Two months ago, on a day it was to celebrate a triple wedding, Kolzari was forced to hold a funeral. Today, when the village was supposed to be meeting the country’s most powerful man, it was holding a protest fast.

For the second time in eight weeks, Kolzari got dressed up only to be disappointed when Manmohan Singh scrapped the hamlet from his travel plans in a last-minute change.

It was because of the tragedy it had witnessed in May that the village in Yavatmal district had been put on the itinerary of the Prime Minister, visiting Vidarbha’s suicide zone to see the farmers’ plight first hand.

On May 8, a day before he was to marry off three of his nieces and nephews, the head of a farmers’ family had killed himself because he was up to his neck in debt.

The media coverage of Gosavi Pawar’s suicide brought a sort of celebrity status to Kolzari, and Singh’s travel planners put it third on the list of villages where Singh would stop over to meet farmers and their families.

In all three villages, the state government did up the roads, built helipads, painted the meeting venues and deployed heavy security.

Singh visited Dhamangaon in Amravati and Waifad in Wardha yesterday; but 12 hours before he was to arrive at Kolzari, his itinerary was suddenly changed.

At 9.30 pm on Friday, the state government sent word that the Prime Minister would travel to Yavatmal airport but not fly the remaining 55 km to Kolzari because of “bad weather”. Officials explained that heavy rain had damaged the helipad in the village.

Singh touched down at Yavatmal around 9.30 am and met 15 to 20 farmers at the airport lounge. He returned to Nagpur in the afternoon to announce a relief package.

State officials claim that the group that met Singh at the airport included some farmers from Kolzari.

Kolzari’s farmers don’t think so. Nor do they feel that the rain was bad enough to make their village inaccessible to visitors. Their fast was continuing late tonight.

“It’s completely unjustified. Five helipads were set up in the village. The authorities spent over Rs 2 crore. They actually repainted the houses,” said Kishore Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti.

“Almost the whole village owes money to Anna, a private moneylender from Andhra Pradesh. The Prime Minister only met the farmers chosen by the local Congress MLAs.”

Kolzari witnessed four suicides in recent months, including the one by Pawar, a Banjara farmer.

Pawar, who owed Rs 65,000 to a bank, had finalised three weddings in his family, but killed himself when local traders refused to give him clothes and other wares on credit. The weddings were held along with his funeral.

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