A 50-year-old farmer committed “suicide” by consuming pesticide reportedly due to financial woes in Naubatpur on the outskirts of Patna on Tuesday night — the third such incident in Bihar in 15 days. His wife, who also attempted suicide, has been admitted to a hospital where her condition is stated to be stable.
Unable to repay Rs 3 lakh loan after a poor wheat crop, Ramesh Singh (50) and his wife Chinta Devi apparently decided to consume sulphas tablets, said their neighbours. The couple had average paddy crop.
RP Singh, Ramesh’s neighbour at Chechaul village under Naubatpur, said: “Ramesh had three bighas, shared among three brothers. He would also do share cropping. He was upset at his wheat crop having less grains.”
The villagers said the Bihar government has no system in place to buy and give bonus for wheat as it has for paddy. Rakesh Singh, another villager, accused the government of not paying paddy dues to the farmers. Patna DM Abhay Kumar Singh said local authorities have been asked to investigate the matter.
The common thread joining the three suicides is that the state government either did not purchase paddy or has not cleared Rs 1,600 crore dues to farmers after it bought the crop from them. The Bihar government that had been given a target to buy “30 lakh MT paddy”, could purchase only 18 lakh MT paddy by the March 31 deadline. The Primary Agriculture Credit Society (PACS) that bought 4.72 lakh MT paddy after the deadline is also finding it difficult to sell the crop to the State Food Corporation.
Last week, 55-year-old Bharat Sharma committed “suicide” at Khijrasarai in Gaya allegedly over non-payment of his dues for 45 quintal paddy sold to the PACS in February. He is said to have met state Food and Consumer Protection Minister Shyam Rajak on May 14 over the matter before jumping off the roof of his house.
Around 62 farmers had also met the DM recently over the non-payment of their dues, but returned “empty handed”.
Sharma has four daughters. While two are married, he was looking a suitable groom for his third daughter. “I had asked my father if he had got the paddy payment. He kept mum and jumped to death a few hours later when we were sleeping,” said the farmer’s daughter.
Days before the Gaya incident, a farmer in Maner, Gajendra Singh, committed suicide on May 4 as he was not able to sell his paddy because his land receipts were not updated. The government, however, has acknowledged Gajendra Singh’s death as suicide and gave a compensation of Rs 4 lakh to his family. The other cases are under investigation.
BJP leader and former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, who visited Sharma’s family on Wednesday, said: “There should be an abetment to suicide case against Shyam Rajak, who had snubbed Sharma. We set a week deadline for the state government to make payment to farmers. The government should also adopt uniform norms to acknowledge suicide and not give compensation on any other consideration. If Maner farmer Gajendra Singh should get the compensation, so the other two families.”
Rajak, however, told The Indian Express: “I do not remember any meeting with Bharat Sharma. Has he sold paddy to the SFC? We had cleared payment for 18.5 lakh MT paddy purchased till August 31. We are not accountable to paddy purchase by the PACS.” The minister also rejected the claim that the Central government had set a target of 30 lakh MT paddy purchase. “It is 20 lakh MT. We had asked the Centre for 30 lakh MT purchase, but were given a 20 lakh MT target,” he said.