The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Debt leads to farmer suicide

Motijheel (Murshidabad), Oct. 11: Unable to bear an increasing debt burden, a jute farmer committed suicide while his son survived an attempt in a village here yesterday afternoon.

According to police, 80-year-old Insur Sheikh picked up a quarrel with his son Malek when he decided to sell his six bighas of land to pay off a loan of Rs 30,000.

“Malek resisted his father’s decision as the farming land is the family’s only source of income. After the quarrel, the two parted and locked themselves up in two adjacent rooms at their Motijheel Dashpara residence and consumed poison. Insur consumed pesticide that was stored in the room while Malek took a high dose of sedatives. The two were moved to the Lalbag sub-divisional hospital, where Insur died in the evening,” a police official said.

Malek’s brother, Mostakim Sheikh, said the family consists of his parents and 10 siblings.

“For the last three years, we did not yield enough to pay back the loan. But abba, with the expectation of making a good profit this year, had taken another loan with a higher rate of interest. But as luck would have it, this year, too, we did not have a rich harvest. The amount of loan had also exceeded Rs 30,000. Even after we sold the crop, we had to sell our cattle but could not procure the amount required to pay back the loan. My brother tried to make abba understand that if he sold the land what will the family consisting of 12 members survive on,” Mostakim said.

Kohinoor Bibi, Insur’s wife, echoed her son. “My husband had no other option but to take his own life as we had a bad harvest consecutively for the third year and the price of jute in the local market was not enough to pay back the loan,” she said.

Murshidabad district magistrate Manoj Panth admitted that jute farmers were facing an acute financial crisis.

“I have already had a session with the Jute Corporation of India (JCI) and Benfed authorities so that we can decide a minimum rate which would help the farmers sustain themselves. Among the 13 centres JCI has set up in the district, 11 centres have already started buying jute from local farmers,” he said.

Moslem Shah, another farmer from neighbouring Hariharpara, alleged that JCI and Benfed buy jute only from bigger farmers and dealers of jute. “We spend nearly Rs 1,000 per quintal of jute but this year we could sell them only for Rs 600 per quintal, resulting in a loss of Rs 400 per quintal. How can we survive in spite of this'” Shah asked.

Balai Chand Mukherjee, the sub-divisional magistrate of Lalbag, also confirmed the ordeal of jute growers.

“It is a fact that jute farmers are not getting a good price for the crop and I will take up the matter with the district administration so that something can be done about it,” he said.

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