The ongoing protest by sugarcane growers outside the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha saw some high drama on Wednesday when one of the agitating farmers committed suicide by consuming poison.
Stung by the development, the state government, which had been dilly-dallying for the past three days, swiftly announced an incentive of Rs 150 per tonne of sugarcane over and above the already declared procurement price of Rs 2,500 per tonne.
The state government also announced compensation of Rs10 lakh to the family of the deceased. However, farmers rejected the relief and announced that they would continue their protest.
The deceased, who has been identified as Vittal Arabhavi (57) of Kankanawadi village in Raibag taluk, consumed a full bottle of pesticide at the venue of the protest outside the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha at 1.30 pm. Fellow farmers immediately rushed him to a nearby hospital. He was later shifted to the KLE’s Prabhakar Kore Hospital where he was declared brought dead.
According to farmers, Vittal was deep in debt and agitated over the delay by the state government in responding to their three-day dharna. He is survived by his wife and five children.
“It is nothing but murder by the government. This incident could have been avoided if the government had responded to the demands of the sugarcane growers,” said Kudachi MLA P Rajeev, who spearheaded the agitation.
Later in the Assembly, Siddaramaiah expressed shock over the incident and announced the compensation. “I was prepared to reply to their demands but I could not as the debate was incomplete. In the meantime this unfortunate incident happened,” he said.
Meanwhile, a group of farmers led by Kodihalli Chandrashekhar also rushed to the hospital and demanded that the body be brought to the venue of the agitation. However, the body was whisked away by the police to his native.
As expected, the incident triggered a war of words between the ruling Congress and Opposition parties, particularly BJP and KJP.
While Yeddyurappa held the government responsible for the suicide, Siddaramaiah said the farmers were in trouble due to the bad administration of the BJP government. “My government has taken care in addressing the grievances of farmers,” Siddaramaiah said, while accusing BJP and KJP of politicising the issue. “They are politicking over the suicide which is shameful. Their behaviour is undemocratic,” he said.
The government is likely to announce a judicial probe into the death of the farmer. Speaking to Express, Home Minister K J George termed the incident a ‘shocker’. State Police Chief Lalrokhuma Pachau also said they were taking precautionary measures.