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Where Have All Our Farmers Gone?

“GLOBALISATION IS nothing but the ultimate takeover of the planet’s resources by a few companies, whereby the freedom of the species and human beings will be killed by them,” sums up Suma Josson’s film, I Want My Father Back, after taking us through Vidarbha’s agrarian crisis and the resultant suicides. It is in the extremity of this view that it sets itself up as propaganda. Visuals that act as mere illustrations to the spoken narrative only augment the public service feel of this film. The problem with ignoring the aesthetic demands of the medium is that it greatly reduces the documentary’s potential to appeal to more than the mind — to actually move you.

As a journalistic exercise, the film is thorough, carefully sifting through all the aspects of the crisis from its singular position of the State as a homicidal conspirator and Washington ally in exterminating small farmers through its deliberate policies. The Green Revolution has favoured agents of globalisation over small farmers. Mono-cropping, abolition of mandis and Bt cotton seeds are wrecking agrarian economy, bio-diversity and animal and human health. Corruption at all levels is reducing the farmer to a loan junkie, condemned to fatal poverty. While few can argue against the failures of the policies in question, not providing a counterpoint to the State as a pure demon with an insatiable murder wish dilutes the credibility of a sound argument.

Thorough as the research may be, the success of narrative journalism lies in the arrangement of the evidence and its potential to engage with the reader. This film leaves you at sea with its relentless onslaught of information and opinion, to fish for points you can take home.

The problem of Vidarbha links up with Naxalism and the future of the country in every way. When you let a farmer die, you let the songs and life of the soil die slowly too. And nature, unlike man will not take deliberate termination lying down. Those who live in and around Vidarbha are protesting and crying before killing themselves. None of their pleas are picked up by the mainstream media. And in that context this film, for all its shortcomings, is incalculably precious.

Originally published in Tehelka.

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