Belagavi (Karnataka): Suicide by a debt-ridden farmer and a similar attempt by another in Karnataka on Monday rocked the state legislature on the first day of the 10-day monsoon session in this northern city.
Even before the day's proceedings began here in Belagavi, over 500 km from Bengaluru, news came from Mandya, about 100 km from the state capital, that 52-year-old farmer Basavaraju committed suicide as he was unable to pay back Rs.5 lakh he took as loan to grow sugarcane in his field, but did not receive money from a sugar mill for last year's crop.
When news of another farmer, 34-year-old Siddaram, attempting to take his life near Suvarna Soudha where the session is being held, broke out, opposition lawmakers in the legislative council urged Chairman D.S. Shankaranmurthy to suspend the question hour and allow a discussion on suicides by farmers in the state in the last 10 days.
Leader of Opposition in the council and BJP lawmaker K. Eshwarappa urged the Congress government to pay arrears to farmers by auctioning sugar the cooperation department had seized from sugar mills and prevent debt-ridden farmers from committing suicide.
In the assembly too, opposition lawmakers of the BJP and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) staged a demonstration near the speaker's podium over the plight of sugarcane growers and blamed the state government for forcing farmers to commit suicide.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said a number of factors, including drop in sugar prices, increase in cultivation area and refusal by sugar mills in clearing arrears had resulted in the present crisis.
"Sugar production across the state has shot up to 49 lakh tonnes this year from 16 lakh tonnes in 2008-09 as the area of cane cultivation doubled to 6.7 hectares of land. Excess production has led to price decline and export prospects are bleak as price in overseas market is also down," the chief minister said replying to the opposition charges of neglecting farmers.