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Farmer’s suicide: retired judge to conduct probe

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Chandrashekhar BawankuleMaharashtra Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule told the Legislative Assembly that the controversy surrounding the death of 84-year-old farmer Dharma Patil would be probed by a retired judge.

The report would be submitted in three months, he said.

Dharma Patil, a farmer hailing from Dhule district, consumed poison at the Mantralaya (the secretariat) here last month and died in hospital a few days later.

His family alleged that their land was acquired by the Government at a low price for a thermal power plant in Dondaicha, while neighbouring farmers got higher compensation.

He approached authorities many times with his grievance but in vain, the family alleged.

Bawankule told the House that Patil had accepted the compensation. Under the land acquisition act, there is no provision of revising the amount once the compensation is accepted, the minister said.

One has to move the civil court for revising the compensation, which was not done, he claimed.

Earlier, Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, while initiating a debate on farmers’ issues in the lower House, said Dharma Patil’s death was not a suicide but a “murder due to the government’s apathy”.

“The true tribute to Dharma Patil would be punishing the middlemen involved in land acquisition,” the Congress leader said.

He also criticised the government for not providing financial relief to farmers affected by the pink bollworm (a pest which attacks cotton plants) and hailstorms and unseasonal rains.

Vikhe Patil demanded a compensation of Rs 50,000 per hectare for the hailstorm-affected farmers.

The loan waiver scheme of the BJP-led government had flopped because most farmers hadn’t got its benefit yet, he claimed.

Agriculture Minister Pandurang Phundkar said 83 per cent of the area under cotton cultivation was affected by the pink bollworm, and the state has sought Rs 2,425 crore of financial assistance from the Centre.

Co-operation Minister Subhash Deshmukh said 77.29 lakh farmers applied for loan waiver, out of which applications of 55 lakh farmers, for waiver of loans totalling Rs 13,782 crore, were approved.

Minister of State for Relief and Rehabilitation Dilip Kamble said 2.93 lakh farmers were affected by hailstorms and unseasonal rains last month.

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