A 45-year-old cotton grower tried to end his life by consuming pesticide at the election meeting of the chief minister Prithviraj Chavan at Dhamangaon in Amravati district, some 200 kms from here in western part of Vidarbha, on Sunday.
According to reports reaching here this evening, the incident occurred when the chief minister was addressing an election meeting for the ensuing municipality elections at Dhamangaon on Sunday afternoon. The farmer, Arun Sabane (45) of Gokulsara village first shouted slogans in support of hike in the minimum support price of raw cotton in the meeting as soon as Chavan started his speech. "First resolve the cotton issue and then only talk about the local elections," he insisted.
However, the Congress workers, who were present there, stopped him from speaking. A frustrated Sabane whipped out a bottle of pesticide which was kept in his pocket and swallowed it there in full public view.
He was immediately rushed to the local civil hospital. However, when his condition failed to improve, he was shifted to government run district hospital at Yavatmal this evening. His condition is said to be critical.
According to eye-witnesses, a visibly disturbed Chavan is later believed to have instructed the district administration to make all efforts to save the life of the farmer. Incidentally, the farmer is a Congress worker.
Sabane, a small farmer (land-holder of 6-acre) of Gokulsara, got around 15 quintal of raw cotton this season. He borrowed around Rs 1.25-lakh from banks and private money lenders. "He will not be able to repay the loans and cope up with the situation if he gets a meager support price of just Rs 3,300 per quintal for cotton," pointed out Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti.
"His attempt to take the drastic step in presence of the chief minister was to draw the attention of on-going agrarian crisis in the region," Tiwari said and informed that an average two farmers commit suicide in Vidarbha every day because of agrarian crisis.
Mohan Jadhav, a farmers' leader who went to the district hospital at Yavatmal to enquire about the health of the victim, said that the condition of Sabane was very critical. "He is unconscious and has been admitted to the ICU," Jadhav said.
Earlier, the activists of Shetkari Sanghatana and several other farm organizations on Sunday welcomed the chief minister Chavan at Chikhli in Buldhana district with black flags and anti-government slogans. The protestors were demanding a better price of raw cotton and soyabean. However, they were not allowed to come any closer to the venue of the election rally by the police.
It was said that the chief minister was unable to announce a bailout package for the cotton and soyabean growers due to the ongoing election code of conduct.