Vidarbha widow who rose to fame is a broken woman

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Old 20-Oct-2011
Vidarbha widow who rose to fame is a broken woman

Nagpur: Kalavati Bandurkar, the Vidarbha farm widow who shot to fame when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited her and then mentioned her plight in parliament, is a broken woman today.

Since her 28-year-old daughter committed suicide, she refuses to speak to outsiders.

She keeps to herself, mostly staying in her small hut in Jalka village of Yavatmal district in Maharashtra. When spoken to by strangers, Kalavati responds with random answers.

The woman, who has lost her husband, her daughter and a son-in-law to the unending debt cycle, either breaks down or snaps.

At one such instance, when a reporter asked her to comment on her daughter's death, Kalavati, 55, said he should come back after a couple of her other children commit suicide.

Her daughter's suicide a month ago came to light only on Monday after an activist brought it to the fore stating that the daily tragedies of suicides among farmers in Vidarbha never seem to abate.

Kalavati's daughter, Savita Divakar Khamankar, belonged to Ralegaon village in Chandrapur district. She killed herself because of poverty as she had no money to get treatment for her prolonged illness.

The face of crisis

Kalavati's farmer husband committed suicide in 2005. She suddenly became the face of Vidarbha's agrarian crisis after Gandhi spoke about the condition of impoverished villagers like her in parliament.

Now, if she comes to know of a visit from a politician or journalist, she locks her hut and goes away, returning only after she is sure there is no one waiting to sympathise with her or throw questions at her, say her neighbours and other village residents.

Activist Nitin Khadse, who works for Sulabh International and stays in the same village as Kalavati, said she has stopped being a part of public functions or political rallies.

"She says her name is often used by politicians for vested interests. Everyone who comes campaigning to address farmers of Vidarbha region wants to make her their mascot," Khadse said.

Kalavati had, in the past, also threatened to end her own life if the state government did not intervene to resolve the agrarian crisis. She tills her three-acre plot herself and grows cotton.

She had, however, received aid, after Gandhi's visit to Vidarbha, from Sulabh International, which deposited Rs3.6 million (Dh268,885) in her name in a bank.

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