Indian government, committed to protect its citizens against exploitation, has expanded the banking facility in rural areas and made it easier for farmers to access loans. The farming community; oppressed and exploited by local lenders and landlords, immediately switched to the banks to avail money on credit. What happens next is Peepli [Live].
A family, entirely depending on agriculture, could not submit loan installments to the lending bank. How will it? The most advance seeds and fertilizers from American companies failed to ensure sufficient returns. The farming conditions have not changed from the ages. Simple techniques of irrigation were not developed compelling the farmers to depend entirely on rains. Farmers have no alternative means to depend on in a draught like situation or protect their farms from excessive rains. Adding to their misery, crop failure has become a routine due to ineffective fertilizers or infertile seeds.
In this country, where rules and laws are taken for ride by politicians, industrialists, bureaucrats and many others, the bank strictly follows its procedure when it come to inability of a farmer to return its loan. The poor farmers have no clues to rescue themselves from this unsavory situation. The law takes its own course and decides to auction the defaulter’s land. Dejected by government agency, the farmer brothers decide to seek help of a local strongman whom they have earlier avoided in lieu of banking credit. The local strongman, angry on them since they have not availed loan from him in the first instance, turns down their plea. Instead, he suggests them to commit suicide so that their family can be beneficiary of a government scheme.
Elder brother grasps the conditions and benefits of scheme announced for those farming families whose member has committed a suicide. Born and brought up in the situation where agriculture has been first and last resort of livelihood, saving the land from being auctioned becomes primary cause for the poor farmers. The elder brother thinks that the only way to save their land is to get money from government scheme and return it to the bank. Despite seeing clear benefit for their family, the elder brother can not gather courage to commit suicide. Instead, he instigates younger brother to die for the cause. The younger brother could not read seriousness in elder’s demand and gave his words to commit suicide. But he never literally meant that.
However, the news spreads like a wild-fire and entire country keeps its eye on Natha to watch live suicide. The media focuses its attention on whether, when and how Natha would commit suicide. The agricultural distress, however, finds no place in the reporting. The bureaucracy, under pressure from media outcry and face-saving politicians, attempts to salvage the situation by including Natha in any of the government schemes. Much to their despair, Natha is not eligible for most of the schemes meant for poor. Bureaucracy’s readymade answers to agricultural miseries are housing schemes, cards for cheap food or employment as wage laborer; none of which is directly related to agriculture. Interestingly, there exists no government scheme to help poor farmers when they are alive. The politicians, as usual, are concerned only with winning the elections. In a nutshell, no one had idea how to address the grim situation in the countryside.
The hype, attention and promises of post-mortem help could not convince Natha to actually commit suicide. There are self-proclaimed intellectuals in our country who cry foul over farmers’ suicide claiming that farmers are allured to take the suicidal step due to greed and attention. Peepli [Live] effectively demonstrates even if you become a celebrity over night, subject to sympathy and help from all around; even if Chief Minister visits your home; even if your family is guaranteed to get compensation, it’s the most difficult decision for any living being. There must have existed very difficult extra-ordinary situation in the life of agricultural fraternity that is driving thousands of farmers to commit suicide. Many more, like Natha, could not gather the courage to end the life and keep on living a miserable life in one form or another. Peepli [Live] is a salute to those millions of unnamed farmers who continue to struggle to live. It is a tribute to those thousands of farmers whose supreme sacrifice went in vain in callous Indian system.
Peepli [Live] does not venture into analyzing the causes of sad state of agricultural affairs, neither it suggests solution. It perfectly depicts ignorance of the same to the media, bureaucracy, politicians and even farmers. The movie succeeds in showing the divide between shining India and suffering India. A must watch for concerned people.
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