She says reports being published in the media are untrue

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has ruled out a probe by a team of legislators of all parties into the issue of farmers' deaths, blaming it on untrue reports and a misinformation campaign.

She rejected the suggestion made by Probodh Panda, general secretary of the CPI-affiliated Paschim Banga Pradeshik Krishak Sabha, when he took a delegation to her at the State Secretariat to seek her intervention.

“The Chief Minister told us that she had enquired into the incidents and found out that the ‘campaign' that farmers were committing suicide was not correct. Untrue reports are being published in the media,” he said.

Mr. Panda said the delegation tried to convince her of the need for forming an all-party MLA team, referring to the concern voiced by Governor M.K. Narayanan.

“When we urged the Chief Minister to increase the Rs.50,000-crore loan ceiling for small and marginal farmers, she told us that this was a matter that would have to be decided by banks. Moreover, she asked how they would repay the loans,” he said. “We told her that it should be ascertained whether such suicides were due to the distress sale of paddy and other agricultural produce by the farmers in different parts of the State.”

He said the delegation submitted a nine-point memorandum to her and pointed out that the prices of potatoes and other agricultural produce had come down in markets across the State owing to distress sales.

Mr. Panda said the delegation requested the Chief Minister to provide an economic package to the affected marginal farmers and families of the peasants who reportedly committed suicide, arguing that they should also be given compensation and their agricultural debts waived.

The delegation wanted the government to reach food and other essentials to the distressed families through the Public Distribution System.

On Monday, Mr. Narayanan said the issue was engaging the attention of both the State government and the Centre, and there was a need to find ways of stopping such incidents.