The family of 84-year-old farmer Dharma Patil took back his body to their native village in Dhule district Monday afternoon after being given a written assurance by the state government that adequate compensation would be paid and action would be initiated against those who allegedly drove him to suicide. Patil, from Sindhkhed taluka in Dhule, consumed poison at the Mantralaya last week while waiting to meet state Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule. He was first admitted to St George Hospital and shifted to J J Hospital when his health worsened. At 8 pm on Sunday, Patil passed away.
Five hectares of Patil’s farmland in Vikharan village had been acquired by the state government in 2016 to build a thermal power plant to address load-shedding. While Patil received compensation of Rs 4.5 lakh, he was upset that a neighbour received a compensation of Rs 1.89 crore even though the government had acquired a much smaller plot of land from him, his family claimed. For the past two years, Patil had been meeting government officials for rightful compensation. However, when his efforts bore no fruit, he wrote to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in December 2017, claiming that local agents had helped several farmers get high amount of compensation. In the letter, he also threatened to commit suicide unless he received proper compensation.
On Sunday night, Patil’s son Narendra refused to claim his father’s body unless he received assurances from the government. While the body lay in the mortuary, Sindhkhed MLA and state Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal and Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan negotiated with the Patil family. It was only after a written assurance was given to the family by Bawankule that they called off the protest and left the hospital with the body around 2.30 pm. A letter given to the Patil family by the energy department states that a fresh survey of the farmland would be conducted and a decision on increased compensation would be taken in a month.
The department has also initiated an inquiry into Patil’s claims that other farmers in Dhule district secured higher compensation and also promised to present its findings within a month. “We are satisfied with the government response for now. But if they do not follow up on their promise within 30 days, we will decide about our next course of action,” said Patil’s grandson, Rohan Sonawane. Soon after the death, the family donated the octogenarian’s eyes, according to his wishes. “My grandfather had decided some time ago to donate his organs. We notified the hospital immediately (after the death) but only got approval today afternoon,” said Sonawane.
According to doctors in J J Hospital, Patil’s other organs were not healthy for donation due to old age. “His eyes were donated to J J Hospital eye bank. But his kidneys had failed and infection had spread to other organs so no other organs could be donated,” the doctor said. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik, who met Patil’s family at the hospital, demanded that a case of murder be registered against government officials responsible for disparity in compensation awarded to Patil and his neighbour.
“The chief minister should initiate action against those who compelled Patil to commit suicide. He should also give a government job to his son,” he said. A case of accidental death was registered at Marine Drive police station on Monday. “We have recorded the statement of Narendra Patil. We will record a fresh statement in course of time,” said Pravin Padwal, the Additional Commissioner of Police, South region.