A debt-ridden farmer who met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in Punjab's Sirhind on April 28 committed suicide on Wednesday after suffering heavy crop loss.
Surjit Singh, while explaining the farming community's distress to Gandhi, had said: "If the farmers' issues remain unresolved, many farmers might commit suicide." The farmer was photographed with Gandhi in Punjab shortly after the Congress leader came back from his 57-day break from active politics. He died after consuming poison on Wednesday.
Back from his sabbatical, the Congress vice-president had taken a train to Punjab on April 28 and spent time at grain markets where anger has been mounting as farmers were finding it difficult to sell their produce from the spring harvest after unseasonal rain and hailstorms battered ripe winter crops.
Dozens of debt-laden farmers have killed themselves in the past three months after heavy downpour flattened rice, wheat and potato crops. In rural areas, discontent with government policies is turning to anger against the BJP-led government as it completes a year in office.
"My father owed six acres but we are tilling 19 acres on contract. Due to less production, the family gets nothing as all the amount is paid to clear dues of land owners. Surjit Singh was under depression. Today, he consumed Celphos (a brand name for compound Aluminium Phosphide)," said Surjit Singh's son Kulwinder Singh. The farmer had a debt of Rs 13 lakh.
The Congress, which has been strongly opposing changes in the original act brought by its government in 2013, is pulling out all the stops to protest against the dilution of the original consent clause. The clause makes it mandatory to secure 80% approval of all those dependent on the land being procured.
Station house officer Sarabjit Singh said Singh left no suicide note. The police have sent his body for post-mortem by making an inquest under Section 174 of the CrPC. "So far, there is no need to register an FIR," he added.
Soon after the news broke, Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa along with Fatehgarh Sahib MLA Kuljit Singh Nagra visited the aggrieved family. "It's a sad day for the farming community, as the farmers committing suicide because of woes, while the NDA government, instead of resolving farming issues, is busy in robbing their land by making amendments in the land acquisition bill," Bajwa said.