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Under a mountain of debt

| Updated on March 16, 2018 Published on March 16, 2018

Telangana and Andhra Pradesh’s farmer widows are strapped with the burden of dealing with deaths and debts

They are the first ones — almost always — to discover the tragedy that changes their lives beyond recognition. ‘The First Witnesses’, photographer and filmmaker Vijay S Jodha’s ongoing exhibition at Delhi’s India International Centre, zooms in on women farmers whose husbands and other family members have killed themselves. These women (and one man) are seen holding pictures, even passport-size images of the dead.

The exhibition is a portrayal of the agrarian crisis in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, two among several Indian States where thousands of farmers have committed suicide over the years, trapped in a debt cycle and facing crop failure. In the backdrop of the recent farmers’ long march in Maharashtra, ‘First Witnesses’ underscores the never-ending tribulations of the community.

Jodha shot the frames between 2016 and 2017. “The low-angle composition of the frames ensure that the camera does not become another oppressive object,” says Jodha. It’s ironical that male farmers often commit suicide wishing for the loan to be waived off, and that their families will receive compensation. Many of those left behind are so young that this brutal disruption seems unbearable in their lives.

‘The First Witnesses’ is on view till March 18 at India International Centre, New Delhi

Photos by Vijay S Jodha; text by Amit Sengupta

Published on March 16, 2018