Two farmers in Madhya Pradesh have reportedly committed suicide within a week of the new government's announcement of a massive farm loan waiver promised by the Congress ahead of the assembly polls in the state.
While one of the farmers consumed poison and died at a private hospital today, the second farmer had hanged himself on Saturday. Their families say that the benefit didn't reach them and increasing pressure from the banks forced them to take the extreme step.
A loan waiver for debt-hit farmers remained the highlight of the Congress' election campaign in the three heartland states it took from the BJP, including Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
The farm loan waiver in Madhya Pradesh is expected to benefit some 33 lakh farmers, owing Rs 70,000 crore in unpaid dues. The scheme will cost at least Rs 50,000 crore, according to reports. But the move is yet to deliver any positive result.
The deaths coincided with Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's assurance that he will make all possible efforts to secure the future of the farmers.
"This is not just a promise but also my duty. I salute the farmers of the country on the occasion of 'Kisan Divas'. We are because you are," Mr Gandhi tweeted on Sunday.
Juan Singh, a farmer from Pandhana in Khandwa, allegedly committed suicide after he came to know that he wasn't eligible for the loan waiver announced by Chief Minister Kamal Nath.
The 45-year-old was found hanging from a tree at his farm on Saturday morning. His brother Gulab Singh said he had taken a loan of Rs 3,22,000 from a nationalised bank and another Rs 50,000 from cooperative society.
Under the loan waiver scheme, only those who had taken loans up to Rs 2 lakh before March 31, 2018 are eligible for the waiver.
Mr Singh's family says that he had repaid the loan taken in the previous financial year and took a fresh loan this year. But his crop was destroyed, and he incurred losses. He was depressed as he wasn't eligible for farm loan waiver.
Prem Narayan Raghuvanshi, 65, was the only earning member of his family of seven. He, too, had taken a loan of Rs 3,00,000 lakh from a private bank and about Rs 2 lakh from cooperative society. He owned 10 acre of land, but excess rain killed his soya crop last year and this time inadequate rain ruined his wheat crop.
The farmer from Kalapipal in Shajapur was getting incessant calls by bank officials demanding repayment of the farm loan that he had taken this year. When Mr Raghuvanshi reminded them of the government's loan waiver scheme, he was told that the bank was yet to receive any instruction.
He had been depressed for the last few days, his nephew Jagdish Raghuvanshi told NDTV.
"He consumed poison on December 20 and died today," he added.
On Tuesday, at least 20 Congress lawmakers will take oath as ministers in Kamal Nath's cabinet.
Lakshman Singh, former Chief Minister Digvijay Singh's brother and legislator from Chachoda, is also expected to be inducted as the minister in the new government. He felt saddened by the news of farmer suicides, he said and added that the chief minister is doing his best to prevent that.
"Farmer suicides is a serious issue. The government has already signed the order to waive farm loans. The aim of the scheme is to ensure that no farmer commits suicide in the state. The banks have to comply with the order. The sooner they do it, the better it is," Mr Singh told NDTV.
Loan waivers were an important issue in the recent state elections. The BJP, which ruled Madhya Pradesh for 15 years, is seen to have suffered most in parts of the state with more rural and farm distress.