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‘Bittersweet’ is the story of India’s Blood-Sugar

‘Bittersweet’ is the story of India’s Blood-Sugar
‘Bittersweet’ is the story of India’s Blood-Sugar

ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ ITDC NEWS SWATI BHAT/ PANJI GOA ‘Bittersweet’ follows the heart wrenching travails of Suguna and her fellow women sugarcane cutters who are trapped in a situation that they can neither avoid nor escape.

“It is the story of India’s Blood-Sugar. It’s how bitter the sugar we use can be in real life,” said the Director of the film Ananth Narayan Mahadevan at a Press Conference on the sidelines of 52nd IFFI in Goa today.

While narrating the saga of suffering of the women sugarcane cutters of Beed, a village in Maharashtra, Mahadevan said that in the race to make India the number one sugarcane exporter by beating Brazil and to earn their bread and butter, women sugarcane cutters have become subject to a very horrifying practice in the fields.

“The sugar cutting period is just six months in a year and they need to survive on the paltry salary they receive during the harvest time for the rest of the year. So women cutters can’t afford to lose even a single day. But unfortunately due to the biological process of menstrual cycle, they lose 3 to 4 days every month. To avoid this loss, a strange practice started about 10 years back in the village of Beed”, he added.

Speaking more about the film Mahadevan said, quacks and non-qualified gynaecologists, have migrated from areas of UP and Bihar landed up in Beed and in order to make money, started advising these women cutters to undergo the surgery of ‘hysterectomy’ - removal of the uterus, the womb. They succeeded in convincing the women that it would get rid of all their problems, like the pain during the menstrual cycle every month, loss of wages during those days and possible growth of tumours in the uterus and other medical issues.

“As a result of this heinous practice today young girls like the protagonist in the film are undergoing the surgery. This is a story of survival, a story of changing the biological cycle that absolutely shakes you up”, he said.

Answering a query on response of Government and Civic Society to these heart wrenching incidents, he said that an international media house did an interview with his team along with some NGOs and law makers from Maharashtra. But they expressed absolute helplessness even though they wanted to do something on this, because of the powerful sugar lobby.

“In the film we have shown that a Government officer is probing the issues, but none of the women have come forward due to fear of loss of their job in the field as it is the only source of income.  They say they are doing it willingly. So that is the most frightening truth, which also makes the lawmakers and social workers helpless to take this up. Powerful Sugar-lobby is also a hindrance”, the Director added.

Responding to a query he said, “While looking at strengthening the agrarian economy of India, we should always attach human aspect. In the race to become number one in any field, we are turning a myopic eye to human problems.”

Talking about his inspiration behind the film, the Director said that he read one headline in a leading daily, titled ‘Beed, a village of women without wombs.’

“I got intrigued. I probed further and went into the lives of women sugarcane cutters. Whatever I have shown through my film is the real story of those women as it is. I have portrayed it in the most honest way”, he added.

The Producers of the film Suchhanda Chatterjee and Shubha Shetty were also present at the media interaction organised by PIB at IFFI 52 in Goa.

Saguna, 22, arrives along with several sugarcane cutters to work in the sugarcane fields in Beed. She is determined to work hard and help her father repay his debt. When she misses work for three days due to menstruation, she is fined heavily. She is even advised to undergo hysterectomy so that her work doesn’t stop. She is shocked to learn that this is the rule for all. It’s a situation Suguna and her fellow women cutters can neither avoid nor escape.

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