Investigations before relating death to drought

West Bengal Minister for Agriculture Naren Dey on Monday denied that the suicide by a farmer in Bardhaman district recently was related to drought, even as another such incident was reported from a neighbouring village.

“The reason for the suicide is not known. In the first case we found out that the person had committed suicide because of family problems. The police will conduct investigations in this case as well to ascertain the reason for his death before co-relating it with the drought,” Naren Dey told The Hindu.

During the day, 28-year-old Jitu Bagdi committed suicide. He was a share-cropper and the paddy he had planted for the Kharif crop had started wilting in the absence of rains, said Onkar Singh Meena, the district magistrate of Bardhaman.

Earlier, 45-year-old Yunus Sheik of Basantapur village committed suicide while on a visit to Debogram village. Both farmers hailed from villages in Ausgram-I block of the district.

“The paddy sown by Yunus Sheik had begun to wilt, but his economic situation does not seem that desperate that he would be driven to suicide,” Mr. Meena added.

Bardhaman is one of the 11 districts in the State that has been affected by drought in the wake of inadequate rains during the monsoon.

Only 45 per cent of the cultivable land in the district is irrigated by irrigation channels fed by reservoirs of the Damodar Valley Corporation, while the remaining areas depend on rains. Even in those parts served by the canals it has not been possible to release water as the reservoirs are running low because of inadequate rains in the catchment areas, he added.

The families of both farmers have claimed that they owed a large sum of money to the local moneylender, but have not been able to furnish particulars about the moneylenders' name or the purpose of the loans, Mr. Meena said.