Sarika Suresh Zute (File Photo: IANS)
Parbhani (Maharashtra), Aug 10 (IANS) Anguished by her debt-ridden farmer-father's precarious financial condition, a minor college girl in Maharashtra hanged herself at her home here, sending shock waves across the region, police and relatives said.
The incident occurred a day after the Raksha Bandhan festival.
On Tuesday morning, family members discovered the body of Sarika Suresh Zute, 17, hanging from a rod in the ceiling of their home in Javlajhuta village, said her distraught brother Sachin Zute, 21.
The police have recovered a page-long handwritten suicide note penned by Sarika Zute explaining the reasons behind her extreme step, said Pathri police station official Mushtaque A. Ansari.
The heart-wrenching note starts by referring to her heavily debt-struck uncle Chandikadas Zute, who committed suicide on August 3 (five days earlier) by consuming poison in the fields.
"There is a lot of tension at home after (Sharda) sister's marriage... You have still not been able to repay the wedding loan and the agriculture loans. Now, you have the responsibility of my marriage... I don't want you to end your life like your brother (Chandikadas). So I am killing myself," she wrote.
"Since the past one year, after our sister Sharda's marriage, Sarika had been tormented about her own marriage, which was being planned for next year, and has taken this step," her oldest brother Sachin Zute told IANS with tears brimming in his eyes.
She was a quiet girl, engrossed in her studies and studied in Class 12 Arts stream in Shivani College, in adjoining Beed district.
According to Sachin Zute, the Maratha family's collective debt through Maharashtra Gramin Bank, a District Cooperative Bank and a Credit Society amounts to around Rs 350,000, along with interest and other charges.
"My father has been regularly repaying his loans. But this year, the situation is terrible as monsoon has failed in this region, and farmers have to resort to a second or even third round of sowing. This will pile up the debt burden further," he explained.
Besides the deceased Sarika Zute, the surviving family comprises Suresh Zute, 45, his wife Dwarka, 39, eldest son Sachin, who is studying in SYBSc in Jivandeep College, Beed, a married daughter Sharda, 20, and a school-going son Sunil, 12.
On their 11-acre farmlands near the village outskirts, the family had been cultivating cash crops like cotton and soyabean, and repaying the loan installments from the agricultural incomes, he added.
A cousin, Santosh Namdev Zute, who lodged the police complaint on Tuesday evening, said the close-knit family is devastated by two suicides in five days in their homes.
"Even our uncle Chandikadas Zute owed Rs 300,000 to a nationalized bank and a DCC besides another house-repair loan of Rs 150,000 from Mahindra Finance Co. Ltd. However, owing to failed monsoon this year, the repayments were badly hit, forcing him to end his life," Santosh Zute told IANS.
Another uncle of Sarika Zute, Laxman B. Zute is a village head in the Parthi region which has been rocked by four suicides in barely one week.
"Sadly, despite so many deaths in such a short period, not a single official from the Collectorate, Agriculture Department or the banks have bothered to visit this region and enquire about the people's plight as a drought looms large," Sachin Zute pointed out.
When contacted, the state-government panel, Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalambi Mission (VNSS) Chairman Kishore Tiwari said the incidents are an indicator of the continuing distress in farmlands across Maharashtra.
"This is a very serious matter. The state government has given standing instructions that in case of such suicides, the concerned officials must visit the families and make full enquiries. If this has not been done, those officials should be suspended... It's a shame," Tiwari told IANS.
Tiwari, who plans to visit the Zute family, confirmed that monsoon has completely bypassed Parbhani this year and the situation could worsen in farmlands if priority measures are not initiated by the concerned departments.