Bengaluru: Debt-ridden Karnataka farmer immolates himself

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Bengaluru, June 25 (IANS) A 50-year-old farmer, reportedly in heavy debt, immolated himself on Thursday by setting his sugarcane field on fire and then jumping into it in Karnataka’s Mandya district, police said.

Farmer Ninge Gowda committed suicide by setting his sugarcane field in Pandavapura on fire and jumping into it, as he was unable to pay back loan after he suffered loss due to nearby mills not buying his crop, a police official told reporters.

The incident outraged hundreds of farmers who blocked the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway, seeking compensation for the victim’s family and government action against sugar mill owners for not paying arrears and not crushing their current crop.

Farmers’ organisations across the state have been agitating for a week over factory owners not clearing arrears and crushing their current crop due to stocks piling up and sugar prices falling.

Record production for the third consecutive year in the state led to sugar prices slump to Rs.19 per kg from Rs.32 in March.

With the 10-day monsoon session of the state legislature beginning from June 29 in Belagavi in the state’s northern region, about 510 km from here, the government on Wednesday decided to seize sugar from 45 factories and auction it.

On the direction of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, state Cooperation Minister H.S. Mahadev Prasad told sugar mill owners to clear dues of Rs.925 crore they owe to farmers since the 2013-14 fiscal, an official told IANS.

Karnataka is the third largest sugar-growing state in India after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Minister Prasad, meanwhile, said: “As recovery certificates were issued to all sugar mills early this month, we will be forced to seize their stocks if they do not begin crushing new cane and pay arrears to farmers.”

According to the cooperation department estimates, about 30 lakh tonnes of sugar, valued at Rs.6,000 crore, was lying in mills across the state, as their owners were unwilling to sell at lower prices after having bought the cane at higher prices.

About 70 lakh tonnes of sugarcane was produced this year following a good monsoon last year and abundant water for the fields.


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