- Sunday, 04 December 2011 22:12
- TN Raghunatha | Mumbai
In an embarrassment for the Congress-led DF Government, a 45-year-old distressed cotton farmer on Sunday afternoon attempted to commit suicide after consuming poison at an election rally being addressed by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan at Dhamangaon in Amravati district of the back Vidarbha region.
Arun Devidas Sabhane shouted slogans against the DF Government for its delay in announcing minimum support price for cotton and Soyabean, as he consumed poison from a bottle that he had brought along with him.
Sabhane was immediately rushed to a local Government hospital, from where he was later shifted to Yavatmal district civil hospital. Though initially his condition was described as “critical”, reports quoting the doctors attending on him at the Yavatmal district hospital said later in the evening that Sabhane was out of danger.
The incident took place when Chavan was in the midst of his speech at a campaign rally organised by the Congress for the municipal council polls to be held next week.
A resident of Gokulsara village in Dhamangaon taluka, Sabhane owns two acres of agricultural land and has taken a loan of `3 lakh from a local money lender.
Unconfirmed reports said that during the current season, Sabhane has produced 15 quintals of raw cotton in his field. He has not sold his produce so far, as the cotton price has slumped. To add to his woes, the State Government has not yet announced a minimum support price for cotton, a delay that is said to have been weighing heavily on Sabhane’s mind when he tried to end his life.
The cotton growers across the State have been agitating over a fortnight now, demanding Rs 6,000 per quintal as minimum support price for raw cotton as against the current rate of Rs 3,300 per quintal.
On its part, the Maharashtra Government has kept on hold its decision on the increase of minimum support price for cotton “owing to the prevailing code of conduct for the forthcoming local body polls” in the State. Chavan had announced 10 days ago that his Government would announce the support price hike during the winter session of the State Legislature, beginning on December 12.
Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishor Tiwari charged that Sabhane’s suicide attempt clearly demonstrated the plight of the debt-trapped cotton growers in the farmers’ suicide-hit belt of eastern Maharashtra.
Lambasting the State Government for its delay in hiking the minimum support price for cotton, Tiwari said, “After consuming poison, Sabhane demanded that the support price be raised. Sabhane’s statement clearly establishes that it was the failure on the part of the State Government to hike cotton support price that had prompted him to attempt suicide.”
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister described the attempt by Sabhane to commit suicide as “unfortunate”. He said that the State Government would take care of Sabhane’s medical needs.
Chavan also assured the agitating farmers that the State Government would announce its decision on hiking the minimum support price for cotton, immediately after the local body polls. He asked the farmers to maintain cool and restraint till then.
In a related development, independent MP from Kolhapur and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetty also came down heavily on the DF Government for its failure to address the grievances of cotton growers in the State.