Indian farmer Havantro Deshmukh criss-crosses his 20-acre cotton plantation in Eastern Maharashtra - barefoot. He wiggles his toes through the spongy mud, unearthing a snarl of cow dung and worms –instant markers of his organic street cred.
Deshmukh converted his farm from chemical to organic nearly a decade ago. Since, then, he says his consistent profit has helped him to "escape debt" and conceivably death in a part of rural Maharashtra known as India’s suicide belt.
In 2006, more than 1,000 suicides were reported in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra - that's one suicide every eight hours.
Deshmukh equates the suicide-prone quarter to a separate country all together. “This is Bharat, Bharat means Village,” Deshmukh declares. He points toward the road out of town. “That is India and India means city.” And in a single gesture, Deshmukh has encapsulated India’s rural-urban divide.
I’ve been excavating this divide through a series of video pieces for the Wall Street Journal. I have just completed a print/video companion for WSJ on the benefits of organic farming in a drought-torn India. Check it out