How do I impress a Gujarati boy

Report: "What is shiny here?"

The black and white television is carefully covered with a gray cloth. The colors of a photo slowly fade over the good part of the living room of the farmer Jairam Reddy. “My son,” says the 61-year-old man. “He died 18 months ago.” Jairam Reddy only hesitantly comes out with the full truth: The 28-year-old son Sriniva went to a field on the edge of the village in the early hours of the morning and drank pesticides from a bottle - a painful death , voted by 3,000 farmers in the state of Andhra Pradesh over the past four years.

"Srinivas didn't know what to do next," says his father in the small village of Gummadidala around 60 kilometers southeast of Hyderabad, the capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh. "He owed too much because of the pesticides." The young farmer had planted cotton because it paid better prices than vegetables and grain. Parasites attacked the plants. A pesticide dealer, also a loan shark in Gummadidala, chatted on the young man one useless drug after another - and made a generous advance payment.

The cotton died anyway. Finally, Srinivas faced a mountain of debt, saw no way out and killed himself. Now only two things remind of the dead son: the fading photo and the annual interest payment of 20,000 rupees (400 euros). A repayment of the loan debt in the amount of 300,000 rupees (6000 euros) is out of the question.

Srinivas Reddy had a little dream that turned out to be his undoing: instead of a black-and-white television, a color television was to be installed in the house, and the bicycle was to be replaced by a moped. “He wanted to live like the people in Hyderabad,” says his father with a slight tremor in his voice.

The capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh is only 60 kilometers from Gummadidala, but the two places are worlds apart. There is only irregular electricity in the village. The phone works most of the time, but the farmers turn over every rupee before picking up the phone. The residents of Gummadidala are happy that for a few months now and then at least an ice cream seller has appeared, walking through the clay alleys of the village and knocking on the blue and yellow painted wooden doors of the low cottages. The next internet café is twelve kilometers away.

But at night the farmers of Gummadidala can see the light that illuminates the dark sky over “Cybercity” - as Hyderabad is also called - like a halo. Glass palaces full of boutiques with international branded goods are displacing old villas and palaces that once belonged to the maharajas and their entourage. Young people populate pubs and restaurants with ID cards dangling around their necks, which companies in the computer industry are distributing to employees. Machines from the Gulf region and Southeast Asia land at the airport. Even Microsoft boss Bill Gates is relying on Hyderabad as a location in view of the low wages and the accommodating tax authorities.

Today the computer industry accounts for around ten of India's total of 60 billion US dollars in export revenues. But it only offers a million jobs. 250 million people, almost a quarter of the population, clamber along the poverty line. Two thirds of all Indians make a living from agriculture. "Nobody here wants their children to remain farmers," says Manda Balram Reddy from the "Federation of Farmers' Associations", which unites around 1,000 organizations in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

“What shines here?” Asks the 24-year-old Jaipaul S. in Gummadidala, whose father is one of the wealthy farmers in the village and who is currently training to be a technician. The question alludes to the optimistic advertising campaign of the Hindu nationalists led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who tried to impress India's voters with the economic achievements of the past five years with the slogan "Shiny India".

But in the cities, the middle class, to whom Vajpayee's “Bharatiya Janata Party” (BJP) had declared for weeks that the election was certain, stayed at home. In the state of Gujarat, Hindu nationalists broke into regions where they had massacred more than 2,000 Muslims over the past two years. In the countryside, the campaign fueled fears among residents that they would be left behind for good.

The result: Chandrababu Naidu, the most important and most reliable coalition partner of the BJP, was voted out of office in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Jaipaul in Gummadidala knows the reason: "He did nothing for us, but everything for the city."