Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vidarbha farmer's widow wins Rs 6.4L in KBC-TIMES OF INDIA

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Vidarbha farmer's widow wins Rs 6.4L in KBC

NAGPUR: In an incident echoing the script of movie Slumdog Millionaire, a poor widow of a financially distressed farmer has won Rs 6.40 lakh in hugely popular show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). Aparna Mallikar, who hails from Yavatmal district, plans to use the money to pay off her debts and educate her children.

Tears flowed down her cheek when Amitabh Bachchan asked her to recall her life which was full of tragedies. Aparna, however, kept her wits and beat the odds by correctly answering questions put to her. Hailing from little known hamlet of Vara-Kawatha in Yavatmal district, she was selected to represent the farm widows of Vidarbha. The special episode of KBC will be aired on Thursday September 29 at 9pm.

Aparna's name was recommended by Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishor Tiwari. He was approached by Sony Entertainment executives wanting to raise different social issues through the programme. Her story had been a tragic one. Her husband Sanjay, a progressive cotton farmer, had committed suicide in 2008 on account of mounting debt and persistent crop failure.

Her world came crashing down and she was left alone to look after two daughters Rohini, then 7, and Samruddhi (3). At 25, she fought the odds and took up farming on their six acres. Until then, she wasn't even aware that her husband had taken a loan from urban bank.

On the show, Aparna was lucky to have company of another brave girl Manjusha Ambarwar from the same district that has gained notoriety of having highest number of farmer suicides. Manjusha's father Ramdas was among the first ones to kill himself for same reason. Now, this 18-year-old is pursuing a journalism degree from the Nagpur University. Aparna's father Arun Tathe accompanied the two to Mumbai.

Thanks to the show, both these women stepped into an aeroplane and also in a 5-star hotel for the first time. During her teen years, Aparna had seen many Amitabh movies. She has also watched him on KBC. Her dreams of seeing him became reality last Saturday when the episode was recorded. "It still seems like a dream," an elated Aparna told TOI from her home in Vara-Kawatha.

She still has a debt of Rs 60,000 that she intends to pay back once she gets the money. "I will be providing good education to my daughters and rest will be used for repairing my home. It is an old house and needs repairs," she says. Moved by her plight, Bachchan personally offered her an additional Rs 50,000.

Despite being tenth fail student, Aparna cleverly used her lifelines to correctly answer as many as six questions on the show. "I would like to offer help to over 13,000 widows living miserable life just like me after their husband took extreme step for mounting debts and crop failures," she adds.

Currently pursuing Class XII from YCMOU, she also spoke on increasing number of farmers' suicides in the region and need for sustainable farming. She quit the show after seventh question. "Somewhere in my mind, I was aware that correct answer was Sant Tukaram but didn't want to risk anything as all my lifelines were exhausted," she points put.

Tiwari said he had been approached by the producers and suggested Aparna's name as her life was an example. "Swapna Nayar associated with show called me up and she went all the way to village to actually see how Aparna works in a farm. She spoke to her and other villagers before the special show," he said.

Nayar told TOI from Mumbai that she had read several reports on agrarian crisis of Vidarbha and even an article narrating the plight of widows. The VJAS chief added that even Big B had assured to provide help to the debt-ridden farmers in the region. Renowned director Deepa Bhatia, former censor board chief Sharmila Tagore, Magsaysay award recipient P Sainath and national BJP president Nitin Gadkari were other celebrities are giving helping hand to vidarbha farm widows .

It was a dream come true for 20-year-old Manjusha as well to meet and interact with the superstar. Though she was not on the hot seat, she described the horrific conditions of farmers in the region and the factors that led to commit suicide. "I told them about substandard seeds being sold to the farmers and its impact on farming. They told me not to use them and I said we had no alternative," she said. Hailing from another Yavatmal village - Telang Takali - she plans to highlight agrarian distress after joining the media.

Big B moved by farmers' plight

Bachchan was so moved by the Aparna's plight that after competing shooting at 2.30 am, he wrote a blog stating that he didn't have words to express his anguish and grief at this state. "But there it was. Stark, brutal and honest," he writes terming her story as "incredible". He was amazed that Aparna still wore her Mangalsutra. "She still keeps wearing it because she fears harassment from other men. She is resolved and doesn't want to give up," he says.

"Tonight was the lady who's husband, a farmer in the Vidarbha, committed suicide because he was unable to repay his loan. Suicides in this region have reached alarming proportions," he wrote.

"There are so many of them that are resorting to this form of ending their lives because they are unable to repay their loans and are unable to find a remunerative medium in their business of farming. They leave behind a family. But they are gone and they have left behind a whole lot of people that now face the consequences of their absence," Bachchan explained.


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