Upset at the delay in getting compensation for his damaged cotton crop, 22-year-old Birbal Singh, a farmer from Dyalpura village in the district, committed suicide by jumping in front of a train on Wednesday evening.
Birbal had suffered losses due to the recent whitefly attack on his crop. His father, Ramchandra Singh, said, “He had taken around three acres of land on contract but it yielded only one quintal of cotton. He had been taking part in protests against the Punjab government, seeking early payment of compensation.”
Birbal jumped in front of a goods train near the Bareta railway crossing. Jaswant Singh, railway police incharge, Bareta, said they had registered a case under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). “After the post-mortem, the body was handed over to the family,” Jaswant Singh added.
In the past month, farmers have been protesting against the district administration for involving politicians from the ruling party in the distribution of compensation. Various Akali leaders across the district have faced stiff opposition from farmers. “We have clearly told the district administration that we will not receive compensation from politicians, following which they have delayed distribution,” said Mahinder Singh, leader of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU Ekta-Dakaunda).
Other farmers alleged that banks were taking longer than usual while clearing cheques deposited by farmers. Farmers from Behnibagah village alleged that they had deposited their cheques in the State Bank of India (SBI), but these had not been cleared for the past month. “About a month ago, I had received a cheque for Rs 7,000. I deposited it in the bank, but it has still not been cleared,” said Darbara Singh, a farmer.
It is learnt that Mansa had received Rs 116 crore as compensation for the damaged cotton crop, of which around Rs 70 crore had been distributed to aggrieved farmers.
Senior officials said banks often delayed clearing the cheques so that they could earn interest. However, an SBI manager denied the allegations, saying that the reason for the delay was the bulk clearance of cheques. “All branches of a bank don’t have a cheque clearing cell, due to which the cheques deposited in our branch have to be sent to the main branch in Mansa,” said Nirpal Singh, manager of SBI’s Behnibagah branch.
Additional deputy commissioner (ADC, general) Isha Kalia said more compensation had been sought from the state government to cover a majority of the affected farmers. “We have sought around Rs 18 crore more from the state government. But we have not received any complaint of delay in clearing the cheques,” Kalia added.