Through various crowd-funding initiatives, US-based Suresh Ediga has managed to raise over Rs. 19,00,000 for Indian farmers. He calls local MLAs in India to track updates, organizes awareness programmes and much more. If he can do all this by sitting miles away, what’s stopping us?
A high school drop out has joined his school again. A young widow in her early 20s has managed to stand on her own feet and start a small enterprise. Families on the verge of losing all hope have got through their difficult times. All of them had one thing in common: the male member of the family was a farmer who had committed suicide leaving behind a family which had no other source of income.
And it was one man’s efforts that gave these families a new hope and brought them out of their dark lives. The man in context is Suresh Ediga, who holds the position of Vice President at a US-based financial company.
So how did a man sitting miles away, without any connection to Indian agriculture, end up addressing the woes of farming families? “For about 14 years now, I have been working with various social initiatives. One day, I read about the farmer suicides in Vidarbha. I read more about it and found it really sad to see their condition. On my daughter’s first birthday, I donated some money to the family of a farmer who committed suicide. Since then, I have been raising funds annually for various farmers and their families in Maharashtra,” says Suresh.
Suresh has managed to raise around Rs. 3,00,000 annually for the families of suicide victims. This year, he has gone a step ahead and started a crowd-funding initiative to raise Rs. 10,00,000 for helping out more affected families. Till date, he has managed to raise over Rs. 19,00,000 for needy farmers and their families.
Do you own an Indian Farmer League?
Suresh has given an interesting angle to the initiative by naming it the Indian Farmer League. The initiative would require every donor to get 10 more people on board and donate $20 each for the cause. Those 10 members will further get 10 more people each in the chain.
The idea came to Suresh’s mind during the Cricket World Cup 2015 and he thought of channelizing the enthusiasm among people towards a better cause.
“This way, every team will have 11 members who will donate $20 each. Or they can donate any amount they want to,” says Suresh. Suresh’s IFL has already raised over Rs. 5.5 lakhs and are looking forward to reaching a target of Rs.10 lakhs this year.
Suresh has partnered with Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samithi, who is helping him with distribution of the funds by enabling them to reach the needy farmers directly. Here is how you can part of the league and support the farmers of Maharashtra.
Suresh is also helping VJAS in organising Samwad Yatra, which conducts community outreach programmes and spreads awareness about the various issues plaguing marginalized farmers.
“Farming is the only sector in India which, despite its size, remains unorganized. There is no trade union, no one to fall back on in times of need. We hope to create a safety net for these farmers and reduce the suicide rates,” says Suresh.
Going an extra mile
Suresh’s efforts do not end at providing financial assistance to the families of farmers. He has been actively involved in the framing of policies and rights of the farmers. He constantly calls local MLAs and ministers to inquire about various schemes and to check whether farmers are getting benefited from those.
“When the ministers know that people are concerned, they tend to take quick action. Also, people have the misconception that ministers do not pick up the phone. They do and are easily accessible. I have made over 100 calls to various ministers. Individuals too can put pressures on influential people,” he says.
To take his efforts one step further, in 2013 Suresh, along with four friends, started an organization called i4Farmers.org i.e. Individual for Farmers, in an effort to bring individuals together to help the farmers.
They have reached out to farmers of four states: Punjab, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra through this organization. The initiative can help individuals adopt a village, support a farmer, support a farm widow, support an NGO or technology-based solutions, and much more.
“Though there are many government policies and subsidies to help farmers, they are not aligned well with the ground realities. Better access to loan facilities is required and the vicious cycle that farmers get trapped in due to money lenders needs to end,” says Suresh.
Though holding a crucial position at a company and managing his social initiatives simultaneously is a challenge, but Suresh manages to do it with perfection. “I have been doing it for so many years now, it has become part of my life. Moreover, it is everyone’s duty to do their bit in whatever way they can,” he says.