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Nagpur: As debt-ridden farmers continue to kill themselves in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region due to “government apathy”, a Parsi couple from Mumbai has provided a healing touch to around 25 widows and their children in bringing their broken lives back on track.
Cyrus Guzder, 76, and wife Lyla, 70, have spent over `1m so far on providing educational support to the children, helping widows set up small enterprises and enabling them to live a dignified life.
“This is our small and humble gesture to do whatever we can to mitigate the sufferings of the farming community here,” Guzder, reluctant to speak about his philanthropy, said.
He discussed the problems of the farming community with NGO Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) led by Kishore Tiwari, local officials and other activists to ascertain how more help could be extended to the widows and their children.
“We have seen that many families are facing virtual starvation. They live in miserable conditions, lacking basic food and health security, education and employment opportunities. As per figures, over 10,000 farmers have ended their lives in Vidarbha alone,” Guzder said. Tiwari alleged that central and state relief packages amounting to around `50,000 crore over the years have barely reached the beneficiaries.
“The money is siphoned off by the politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus and the farmers continue to suffer and commit suicide,” Tiwari said.
Guzder, who lived and worked in Nigeria for 33 years, has a strong love for Vidarbha as he completed his early education in Nagpur. In fact, he continues to regularly travel between Mumbai and Nagpur to care for his ailing 95-year-old mother.
“Guzder and Lyla’s zeal to return his roots and repay his debt to society is indeed commendable. We salute them,” Tiwari said.
Meanwhile, the Guzders visited the hut of Poornima Kopulwar, 32, whose husband committed suicide in 2010 and she struggled to feed her two minor children.
Last June, she suffered a hip fracture while working in the fields. The Guzders promptly came forward to foot her `50,000 medical bills and other expenses.
Gita Rathode, 27, lives in the Both-Bodan village of Yavatmal which shot into the limelight after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited it a few years ago - to little avail.
Again, the Guzders stepped in and helped her set up a small stationery shop last month. Now, Gita earns around `6,000 a month and has become independent.
When the dwelling of Gita Chincholkar in Kopamandvi village collapsed, she was on the verge of suicide, but the Guzders donated `80,000.
Her home was reconstructed and her family lives there in full security.
Other major beneficiaries include Archana Raut who got `40,000 for her son and daughter’s education in a technical school, Anju Bhusari who got `45,000 to dig a tubewell in Pada village and her neighbour Nirmala Shende, who got `25,000 for agricultural purposes.
“When the authorities have failed us, it is Guzder and Madame who have saved us from certain death,” said Chandrakala Meshram of Saikheda village, whose two daughters were given `40,000 for their education.
Moved by the sentiments of the villagers, the Guzders have promised to return to Vidarbha and and instructed VJAS to identify more widows and families in dire need of financial support.