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Muzaffarnagar: Farmer's suicide triggers protest

Muzaffarnagar (UP): A farmer committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh allegedly due to non-procurement of his sugarcane produce amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown, according to his family. The suicide triggered a protest by farmers on Friday who demanded that a case be registered against sugar mill officials for their failure to procure sugarcane from farmers. The angry farmers staged a road blockade and refused to cremate the body till their demands were met.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra took up the matter and criticised the BJP government.

"Seeing his sugarcane crop drying in the field and not getting the slip, a sugarcane farmer from Muzaffarnagar committed suicide...Imagine the plight of these sugarcane farmers' families not getting their dues during this financial crisis," she said and questioned the government's silence. The BJP claimed that full payment would be given in 14 days, but the sugar mills have been closed with payment worth thousands of crores of rupees still due, she said.

Ompal Singh, a resident of Sisoli village in the Bhorakala police station area, had left home for his fields on Thursday and later in the day, his body was found hanged from a tree.

His family told the police that he had been depressed over inability to sell his sugarcane produce due to the lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus. Authorities, however, denied the claim that he committed suicide due to non-procurement of his sugarcane produce. District Magistrate Selvakumari J said preliminary investigations revealed that the farmer killed himself due to a family dispute over land. The district magistrate asserted that there had been no stoppage in the procurement of sugarcane by mills. After the body was handed over to the family following post-mortem, a group of farmers staged a protest and refuged to cremate the body till their demands were met.

As the protest continued, leaders of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, including its national secretary Rajpal Balyan and former Uttar Pradesh minister Yograj Singh, joined them.

Soon after, Union minister Sanjeev Balyan, who represents Muzaffarnagar in Lok Sabha visited the protest site, along with BJP MLA from Budhana constituency Umesh Malik, persuaded the farmers to withdraw their protest. The district magistrate too visited the protest site and announced a financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh to the family of the deceased farmer. Leaders of the RLD and the Samajwadi Party separately announced financial assistance of Rs one lakh each to the bereaved family.

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