Inspirational and devotional songs that celebrate life are often heard in the villages of Aurangabad district in Maharashtra these days. Follow the sound and you will find that the singer is actually a bureaucrat who is posted in that region.
Vijaykumar Phad is the Deputy Divisional Commissioner (general administration) posted in Aurangabad divisional commissionerate. And he has taken it upon himself to do something to prevent the increasing number of farmer suicides in the region.
For this, he chose to use his skill of narrating stories with a moral lesson in the form of devotional songs, with the view of counselling and encouraging the farmers.
He began by putting together all the data on draught and farmer suicides to handpick those villages where the number of suicides is very high. And now, he visits those villages one at a time. Carrying a veena, and dressed in dhoti-kurta and a turban, he sings sermons and devotional songs that encourage people to face difficult life situations with courage.
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The villagers in the region usually organize weekly sermons, and Phad visits them during those sessions. His visits are scheduled for non-working days, or after finishing work.
“I am working on my schedule so that I am able to spare more time to counsel farmers. My effort is to make them understand how important life is and committing suicide will not solve any problem but will worsen the situation for the families they leave behind,” he told The Times of India.
Phad hails from the small village of Latur, located in Marathwada region. Because of his background, farmer related issues are very close to his heart. Even his parents are still engaged in farming. Thus he decided to contribute to this sector, both on a personal and professional level.
As for singing, devotional songs have been Phad’s passion since he was in school. He decided to revisit his skill this year when the suicide toll in Marathwada reached 850 farmers in January. As of now, he has already covered 25 villages. According to a senior revenue official, farmers are connecting well to the exercise, and there is a demand for his sermons. Villages seeking his sessions are now on a waiting list.
“People from rural areas are curious to see a senior officer visiting their village, sitting with them, counselling them. The farmers even find an opportunity to speak to him about the problems they are facing at different sections of revenue and agriculture department, and he guides them readily,” Shayaji Pawar, a farmer from Paithan taluka told TOI.