Bitter Harvest

I read this article Bitter Harvest by Radha Rajadhyaksha, in Time of India dated 28th Feb 2010. It is about ‘Nero’s Guests’, Deepa Bhatia’s award-winning documentary film centering around farmers’ suicides, in rural India. I am quite moved by this article and I hope to see the DVD also. I give below a few excerpts from this article for your quick view.

Says P. Sainath, a Magsaysay Award winner and a chronicler of the unending human tragedy that’s unfolding in rural India, “There are 311 billionaires in India, a survey says this is the fourth happiest country in the world, and we had not one but two fashion meets this year.’’ The scathing sarcasm is laced with anger: “It’s very clear who the government exists for. When the sensex fell a few years ago, it took two hours for the then finance minister to come to Bombay by a special flight to hold the hands of weeping billionaires. It took ten years for the prime minister to visit farm households in a state where over 40,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1995 according to government data.’’

Now to visuals of a hungry child asking his mother for food, now to cattle patiently ploughing the soil:

Mute calves from Warhad are we

Watching the plunder of mother’s milk

Drenching the earth drop by drop

With our sweat yielding pearls

Yet our babies in hunger fret.

(Warhad is a village in Maharashtra)

 
There’s a clip of Sainath’s address to Parliament where he talks of how farmers were forced to kill themselves because they couldn’t get 8,000 rupees at a decent rate of interest. “And after covering such cases, I come back to my house and get a letter from my bank offering me a loan for a Mercedes at six per cent interest, no collateral required. What kind of justice is there in such a society? What kind of justice is this?’’ he demands agitatedly as Rahul Gandhi and Mani Shankar Aiyer look visibly uncomfortable. 

Deepa closes her film by cutting back to the question raised at the beginning: Who were Nero’s guests? Sainath then relates the true story of Nero, the notorious Roman emperor who, faced with a paucity of lighting at a grand party, provided it by emptying his prisons and burning undertrials at the stake. “The guests at the party were the elite of Rome, and to the best of our knowledge, nobody protested,’’ Sainath says. “I always wonder what sort of mindset it would require to pop one more grape as another human being bursts into flames.’’ Parallel drawn, he pauses for a second, and then continues: “We can differ on how to solve this problem, on even our analysis of the problem. But maybe we can make one starting point: we can all agree that we will not be Nero’s guests.’’

You can revisit your conscience by logging on to http://www.nerosguests.com. You may by the DVD and Part of the proceeds will go to farmers’ families in distress.

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