Had N Chanagounder of Karnataka succeeded in his attempt to commit suicide, he would joined a long list of farmers, an exception only in fact that he grows raisin when sugarcane growers are more common among those who have taken their lives. He survived the attempt, however, and his life took a turn — he also got compensated.
For 18 months, Chanagounder had travelled between Mumbai and Sangli, making rounds of police stations and urging officials, to help him get back his produce of raisins kept at a cold storage facility in Sangli. Failing to get it back, Chanagounder consumed poison. His unsuccessful attempt drew the attention of authorities, who took stock of his plight and compensated Chanagounder, at the initiative of Sangli police.
The cold storage facility where Chanagouder had kept his raisins had defaulted on payments to the lender, a senior official with the Director General of Police’s office in Mumbai told The Indian Express. Around one and a half years ago, the lender, Indian Bank, not only seized the cold storage but, according to Chanagouder’s complaint to police, also sold off the produce, including his raisins.
Indian Bank did not respond to the allegation. A detailed questionnaire sent by The Indian Express had not yet been answered when this report was being filed.
“While we have booked a bank official and are probing him under certain sections of the IPC, preliminary probe has revealed that the bank had sought a list from the owner of the cold storage facility on the products kept for safekeeping but he had failed to furnish it,” said a Sangli Police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We are now trying to ascertain who sold off the produce.”
The Indian Express tried to contact Rajendra Khumbare of the Saiprasad cold storage facility but he did not respond to calls.
When he failed to get back his produce, Chanagounder had first visited the senior officer at the DG office with his complaint. The officer said he then directed the framer to the Sangli Superintendent of Police.
Chanagounder visited the SP’s office a couple of times but failed to meet him. It was then that he attempted suicide. After he recovered, he decided to pay one more visit to the IPS officer in Mumbai. This time the officer called the Sangli SP and asked him to look into the matter urgently. Within 48 hours, the Sangli Police got the cold storage facility to compensate the farmer.
“The farmer has been struggling for the last 1½ years just to get his produce back. While I thought his problem has been addressed, I was appalled to hear his story when he recently visited me,” said the officer in the DGP office. “He told me that since he had incurred a major loss, he had attempted suicide in Pune. But upon recovery, he decided to meet me again. I immediately called the SP of Sangli and asked him to get his problem sorted out. There has been negligence on the part of the bank, which sold off the produce belonging to a third party, and the facility owner, who should have informed the bank that the produce kept in his facility belonged to his client. A probe has been ordered.”
Bipin Bihari, Additional DGP (law and order), Maharashtra, has sought a report from Sangli police on the delay. He has also sought details on any action taken against the bank. “A report on what caused the delay in attending to the farmer’s complaint and what action has been taken against those whose negligence caused the farmer immense discomfort has been sought from the SP,” Bihari told The Indian Express.
Sangli police have registered a case of criminal breach of trust under IPC section 406 against the owner of the facility and the bank. A preliminary probe has revealed, however, that the produce did not entirely belong to Chanagounder.
“While the farmer has been compensated, we have found that the produce only partially belonged to him. We are trying to probe deeper. Also, a case has been registered against the bank and the owner of the cold storage facility and investigations are under way,” said Dattatray Shinde, SP Sangli.