Farmer's suicide in Muzaffarnagar over non-procurement of sugarcane triggers protest

Muzaffarnagar (UP), Jun 5 (PTI) A farmer committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree here allegedly due to non-procurement of his sugarcane produce amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown, according to his family.

The suicide triggered a protest by farmers and family members of the deceased, Ompal Singh, on Friday. The protesters staged a road blockade and demanded that a case be registered against sugar mill officials for their failure to procure sugarcane from farmers.

However, they called off the protest after district authorities announced financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh for Singh's family. After initially refusing to cremate the body, Singh's family relented and his last rites were conducted in his native Sisoli village.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra took to Twitter to criticise the BJP government. She also questioned the state government's silence over non-payment of sugarcane dues to farmers.

Singh had left home for his fields on Thursday and his body was found hanging from a tree later in the day.

His family told the police that he had been depressed over the inability to sell his sugarcane produce due to the lockdown to combat coronavirus.

Authorities, however, denied the claim that he committed suicide due to non-procurement of his sugarcane produce.

District Magistrate Selvakumari J said preliminary investigations revealed that the farmer killed himself due to a family dispute over land.

She asserted that there had been no stoppage in the procurement of sugarcane by mills.

The district magistrate visited the protest site and announced financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh for the family of the deceased farmer.

Following the announcement, the agitating farmers called off their protest and Singh's family conducted his last rites. After the body was handed over to the family following the post-mortem, they had initially refused to cremate it.

Union Minister Sanjiv Balyan, who represents Muzaffarnagar in Lok Sabha, also visited the protest site along with BJP MLA from Budhana constituency Umesh Malik.

Leaders of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RJD) and the Samajwadi Party separately announced financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh each for the bereaved family.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief Naresh Tikait said farmers have been facing great financial problems and not getting the proper cost of their produce due to the lockdown.

He demanded a complete waiver of electricity bill and other dues of farmers.

The BKU also announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 for Singh's family.

Tagging a media report about the farmer's suicide, Priyanka Gandhi tweeted, 'Seeing his sugarcane crop drying in the field and not getting the slip, a sugarcane farmer from Muzaffarnagar committed suicide.' The BJP claimed that full payment would be given in 14 days, but the sugar mills have been closed with payment worth thousands of crores of rupees still due, she alleged.

The Congress general secretary in-charge of UP East said, 'I had brought it to the notice of the government two days ago. Imagine the plight of these sugarcane farmers' families not getting their dues during this financial crisis. But now the BJP government does not even mention a word about the payment of sugarcane dues within 14 days.' PTI CORR ASK SMN DIV DIV