Farmer's suicide over compensation: Family refuses to accept body

Farmer's suicide over compensation: Family refuses to accept body

The family of an 84-year-old farmer, who died after attempting suicide seeking adequate compensation for his land, today refused to take his body till their demands are accepted by the Maharashtra government.

While the BJP-led government promised that there would be a revaluation of the acquired land, the opposition Congress dubbed the death as a murder and blamed a nexus of agents and officials for farmers' plight.

Dharma Patil, hailing from Dhule district, consumed a poisonous substance at the Maharashtra secretariat on January 22 to protest the low compensation offered by the government when his land was acquired for a solar power plant.

He died at the J J Hospital here last night.

His son Narendra Patil today said, "I will not accept my father's body until the state government accepts our demands. I am not going to accept my father's body because we have been fighting against the injustice done to us."

Narendra had told reporters last week that his father got only Rs four lakh for his five acres of land. The octogenarian had been visiting the state administrative headquarters for the last three months to complain about the inadequate compensation but to no avail, he had said.

The Maharashtra government offered an assistance of Rs 15 lakh to the farmer after he consumed poison and was admitted to a hospital, but his son had refused to accept it.

"We were denied proper compensation by the state authorities for the land acquisition. Except us, everybody in our neighbourhood whose land had been acquired was given higher compensation. Why was there such a disparity?" Narendra Patil asked.

State Congress chief Ashok Chavan today said, "The government is solely responsible for this death. It should be booked under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.

"Dharma Patil could have got justice if the state had intervened immediately. It shows how we value our people. The government has no control over the administration," he said.

Another Congress leader and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan demanded a judicial probe.

"As per my information, some land agents are involved in such land acquisition deals and local revenue officials are also a part of the nexus. The farmers who agreed with such agents received higher compensation," Chavan alleged.

"Dharma Patil's family had refused to be a part of such a nexus, hence they were given very low compensation. This is a serious matter and I demand a judicial inquiry," he said.

Chavan also said the land was first acquired for a thermal power plant, but its economics could not be worked out. The state then decided to construct a solar power plant.

The leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde (NCP) had said last night that only the government was to blame for the farmer's death.

The leader of Opposition in Assembly and Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil echoed him. Vikhe Patil also alleged today that a state minister had purchased land in the same area after the process of the acquisition began (so as to pocket hefty compensation).

As the death drew sharp reactions from Opposition, power minister Chandrashekhar Bavankule today assured the family that the government will reassess the land valuation.

In a letter to Narendra Patil, the minister said Dharma Patil had complained about low compensation for the land as well as for the fruit-bearing trees on it, and the value of both would be reassessed and the procedure would be completed in 30 days.

The Shiv Sena, a ruling ally, issued somewhat conflicting statements on the issue. While its senior leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut said that the "government should be booked for culpable homicide", party spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said that "ninety percent of the blame falls on the previous Congress-NCP government and ten percent on the current government."

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