Sugarcane farmer’s suicide triggers protests, family claims mills didn't buy his crop

Muzaffarnagar (UP), Jun 5 (PTI) A farmer hanged himself from a tree here allegedly after failing to sell his sugarcane crop to a government mill amid the coronavirus lockdown, his suicide triggering protests.

Local farmers and family members blocked a road on Friday over Om Pal’s Singh’s suicide and refused to cremate his body for hours, demanding the registration of a case against sugar mill officials for their “failure” to procure sugarcane.

They called off the protest after district authorities announced financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh for Singh's family. The family conducted the last rites in his native Sisoli village.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra took to Twitter to criticise the state’s BJP government, accusing it of not paying 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 police he was depressed over his inability to sell his sugarcane crop because of the lockdown to combat coronavirus.

Authorities, however, rejected the claim that he committed suicide due to this.

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

She said 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 farmer’s family.

The farmers then called off their protest and Singh's family conducted the last rites. Family members had initially refused to cremate the farmer after his body was handed over to them following a post-mortem.

Union minister Sanjeev Balyan, who represents Muzaffarnagar in Lok Sabha, also visited the protest site along with BJP’s Budhana MLA Umesh Malik.

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

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief Naresh Tikait said farmers have been facing big financial problems and not getting the proper price for their crop because of the lockdown.

He demanded a complete waiver of electricity bills and other dues for them. The BKU also announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 for Singh's family.

Tagging a media report about the 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 “slip” is produced by farmers when they visit a sugar mill to sell their crop.

The BJP has claimed that farmers will be paid in full within 14 days after selling their crop, but sugar mills have been closed with payments of thousands of crores still pending, she alleged.

'I had brought it to the notice of the government two days ago,” the Congress general secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh said.

“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,' she added. PTI CORR ASK SMN DIV ASH ASH