Nagpur: Dharma Patil, over 80 years of age and hailing from Dhule district, consumed a poisonous substance at the Maharashtra secretariat on January 22 to protest the low returns offered by the state government while acquiring his land for a solar power plant.
He had two acres of irrigated land, with drip irrigation, a borewell and an orchard having 600 Mango trees. The ‘compensation’ he had received for all this was a paltry Rs. 4 lakhs.
After his suicide attempt, and while he was still struggling between life and death, the state Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule said the government has decided to grant Rs 10 lakh per hectare to all farmers whose lands were acquired for a thermal power plant, as ex gratia, in the next eight days. However, the family of Dharma Patil, who is in hospital after he consumed poison, rejected the offer and said they want rightful compensation for their land.
The Patil family rejected the offer saying they don’t need an ex-gratia amount. “We want the rightful compensation and don’t want any ex-gratia. We have given our two hectare irrigated land… Our neighbouring farmer got Rs 1.89 crore for his land which measured less than two acre. We just want justice and the rightful compensation. My father would have never gone to such an extreme step just for Rs 10-15 lakh,” said Narendra, 35-year-old son of Dharma Patil.
Dharma Patil finally succumbed on Sunday night. His family has refused to take his body till their demands are accepted by the Maharashtra government.
Dharma Patil’s tragic case underlines this govt’s apathy towards farmers
The octogenarian had been visiting the state administrative headquarters for the last three months to complain about the inadequate compensation for his land, his son had said, but to no avail.
Asked for clarification about the compensation difference raised by Narendra, Bawankule said, “The compensation has been given based on land valuation and orchard valuation. The horticulture department did the orchard plant valuation and the compensation was based on that.” One wonders how the Horticulture department evaluated 600 Mango trees at such a paltry sum!
Agent Administration unholy nexus?
Even Anil Gote, a Ruling party (BJP) MLA from Dhule, demanded action against agents allegedly involved in the land acquisition process. “The officials and agents involved in the process are forcing the farmers to take the extreme step. The action should be taken against those involved,” said Gote.
Prithviraj Chavan, former C.M. and Congress leader, termed it as a serious matter and demanded a judicial probe into it. “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,” he alleged last night.
“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 in this case,” he said.
Opposition leaders Dhananjay Munde and Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil have also strongly condemned the anti -farmer attitude of this government.
Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the farmer died due to “the government apathy and the anti-farmer policies”.
“The government is yet to wake up even after thousands of farmers have ended their lives,” Vikhe Patil said.
Unmitigated farmer suicides
When Fadnavis took oath as CM of Maharashtra he said that offering relief to farmers of the state would be his Number one priority.
But since 2014, the number has only risen – even after the farm loan waiver last year.
As per the data reported by the six divisional commissionerates across the state, 2,414 farmer suicides were reported in the state between 1 January and 31 October.
The Amravati division, which accounts for five districts in Vidarbha, reported the highest number—907—followed by the Aurangabad division in Marathwada with 789. Vidarbha and Marathwada, which together account for 19 of the total 36 districts in Maharashtra, are the two regions whose severe agrarian crisis prompted the farm loan waiver. But ministers, farm sector experts, and activists say bureaucratic bottlenecks and technical snags have hampered the implementation of the scheme, aggravating the crisis.
A minister, who did not want to be named, admitted that the government departments tasked with the implementation “had let the scheme down”.
In the eyes of the farmers though it is the the governments, both in Mumbai and Delhi, who have let them down. Again.
When will days of gloom and doom end for the Indian farmer?
—Sunita Mudaliar (Executive Editor)