Bengal downplays farmer suicides

While Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her government sought to downplay the fact that farmers were being forced to commit suicide in the State because of penurious conditions, Leader of the Opposition Surya Kanta Mishra said here on Monday that the Chief Minister keeps maintaining that nothing is wrong whenever anything construed as a criticism of her government is brought to her notice.

Not in concurrence with claims that farmers were taking their lives as they were unable to repay loans as they were not getting remunerative prices for their produce, Ms Banerjee even pointed out that one of those reported to have taken his life did not own any farmland while there were those who had long-standing loans.

“Many are saying that farmers are committing suicide ….very often such information is not correct. If you get any information (on such matters) please cross-check with the department concerned”, Ms. Banerjee told journalists.

Asked for his views on the matter, Dr Mishra said there are reports that 21 persons who include farmers, sharecroppers and agricultural workers have been forced into taking their lives over the past eight months since the Trinamool Congress-led government came to power.

“The Chief Minister is saying that nothing of the sort -- farmers committing suicide -- is happening. She says there is need to look into the matter more thoroughly (before drawing such conclusions). But I am asking her to look into it more thoroughly,” he asserted.

Agriculture Minister Rabindranath Bhattacharya said the State Government had so far not received any report of farmers committing suicide because of not being able to either pay off their debts or not getting proper remunerative price for paddy.

There were, however, reports of three alleged suicides over the past three to four days but that was not because they were unable to clear his debts. They were being looked into, he added.

Dr Mishra, however, contented that most of those to have taken their lives were marginal farmers. Another nine persons had died of starvation over the past 32 days in a closed tea garden at the Dooars in north Bengal, he added.

“We demand the government provide compensation to the families of those farmers who have committed suicide and workers of the closed tea garden who have died of starvation just as it had done so to the victims in the fire at AMRI Hospitals, Dhakuria and the spurious liquor tragedy (in South 24 Parganas district),” Dr Mishra said.

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