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The Amitabh Bachchan way or the highway


ADITI PRASAD | New Delhi, May 14, 2012 11:49
Tags : Amitabh Bachchan | farmers | total worth of | suciides | donated | waivered off |

You have either got it or you have'nt. In the context of superstar Amitabh Bachchan, the idiom does not only relate to his screen presence – but also his generosity. The man’s compassionate side came to the fore recently when he decided to share his immense wealth with the poor and needy by giving away Rs. 30 lakhs to clear the debts of some 100 Vidarbha farmers. His recent philanthropy is not based on any sudden whims or quirks. On hearing the plight of farmers in Andhra Pradesh while shooting in Vishakhapatnam some eight years ago, Bachchan senior had similarly repaid the debts of nearly 40 besieged farmers by shelling out Rs. 11 lakhs from his own pocket.
Cynics may snigger at the above insinuation. After all, what’s Rs.30 lakhs or Rs. 11 lakhs for a man whose net worth - together with wife Jaya Bachchan – totals a whopping Rs. 493 crore (touching almost $100 million)?
Well don’t. Big B may be one of the richest people in the country, but then India today has one too many rich birds – most of whom wouldn’t bat an eyelid towards the nation’s poor kisans and their plight – unless it were to perhaps save their own lives. At last count there were over 1, 90,000 dollar millionaire households in the country. What's more, according to National Election Watch - it was easier to count the number of non-millionaires than millionaires in India’s list of Union Ministers in 2011. The richest in that list was former civil aviation minister Praful Patel with almost $25 million (Rs. 122 crores) worth of immovable and movable assets to his name.

Now do the math on Amitabh’s compassionate charity – Rs 30 lakh spread over a hundred farmers implies an indebtedness of about Rs.30, 000 per farmer. Suppose every million-dollar plus household in India doled out just Rs. 1 lakh – the amount generated would help over an estimated 6 lakh farmers to get rid of their debt-ridden lives.
Some may argue that it is the government’s job to save the farmers. The millionaires pay hefty taxes – and those should be used to improve the lot of farmers – especially those dependent on cash crops or engaged in cotton farming – one of the worst sufferers due to the increasing role of multinational agribusiness giants in cotton production and its aftermath.

To be fair, the government had flagged off funds from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund in 2006 to relieve farmers off their debts. Two years later, the Finance Minister even formulated an Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme. But like most government programs – implementation fell way short of expectations. Moreover, the government assistance only applied to farmers with loans from banks. This left out a large section of farmers who instead had access to only expensive private moneylenders for getting loans. Meanwhile, farmers continue to kill themselves finding more peace in death than in their indebtedness. More than 216, 000 farmers had killed themselves from 1997 to 2009 due to abject poverty and vicious debt traps – this according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. About 17,638 farmers committed suicide during 2009 alone - that’s one farmer dead every 30 minutes. The latest National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) report says that of the 89.35 million total farmer households, 43.42 million are unable to come out of their debt traps induced by repeated crop failures, weddings or health reasons. Unfortunately for them, farmers are neither sexy nor savvy and therefore unable to generate TRPs. So it’s only when a large number of them commit suicide together – do they make it to the national consciousness. The media is of course too busy with IPL, Vidya Balan’s Dirty Picture or some sleazy sex CD or the other to really bother about the hapless kisans, while politicians are too busy sewing up their alliances for the next assembly or general election round the corner. 

That just leaves millionaire do-gooders like Amitabh Bachchan to come to their rescue. Let’s hope – that the others raking in the moneys in ‘shining’ India – can become the silver lining for this ‘weeping’ India. So loosen up those purse strings now Mr. Richie Rich – it’s all gonna be tax free anyway! 

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Sunday Indian)
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Posted By: Abhinav | Mumbai | May 20th 2013 | 10:05
would like to see / share more blogs/ articles like these. After all a writer appreciates good thoughts as much as the reader..

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