Chandigarh, Punjab: 15-year- old Karamjit Kaur is in a state of shock, her father Sukhminder Singh, a 42-year- old farmer, consumed pesticide and hanged himself from a tree in his field, a day after he destroyed his pest ridden cotton crop. What is worrying the elders most is the repayment of Rs three lakh bank loan taken by the farmer in Punjab.
Pesticides have failed to check pest attacks on cotton crops, leading to nearly 60 per cent of the crop being damaged in about six lakh acre area. The number of suicides by farmers, continue to mount in Punjab's Malwa region.
Despite the Parkash Singh Badal government announcing a compensation of Rs 8,000 per acre, 12 farmers have committed suicide since August. Maximum 9 suicides have been reported from Bathinda, while one farmer committed suicide in Sangrur, Mansa and Barnala districts each.
Balbir Singh Rajewal of the Bhartiya Kisan Union says the compensation is too less for farmers, "due to shrinking family size the land holding has gone down and farmers have to plough leased land which is Rs 40,000 per acre for a year now. So this means Rs 20,000 loss straightaway, add to this another Rs 3,000-3,500 for seeds, fertilizers and pesticides."
But the chief minister claims his government has come forward to help farmers.
Mr Badal told reporters, "Whenever the farmers are in trouble, our government has helped them. Be it the sugarcane dues, we gave Rs 700 crores... and now another Rs 600 crores for the farmers hit by cotton crisis.'
The opposition is demanding a loan waiver for farmers.
"Let Chief Minister Badal lead a fast unto death at Modi's residence, I will accompany him... this is the only way to get a loan waiver from present government," said Partap Singh Bajwa, state Congress chief.
The Shiromani Akali Dal government has finally accepted that supply of spurious pesticides as the reason behind the cotton crisis. While it has acted against the director of agriculture department, Tota Singh, the minister concerned has been given a clean chit.
Angry farmer unions are gearing up for a show-down with a call to block rail traffic on October 7 and 8.