The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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VIPs see ravage of flood, farmer swallows poison

Behrampore, Oct. 10: Jagatpati Saha, a farmer reeling under the impact of the recent rain on his crops, took his own life in flood-hit Murshidabad around the time a Union and a state minister were touring the district to see the damage and oversee damage control.

The 65-year-old resident of Barhatti in the Salar police station area consumed poison after the Kuea river washed away aman crop standing on his 4-bigha plot, about 180 km from Calcutta.

Saha's brother Jadu said he was weighed down by mounting debts. He died at Katwa Subdivisional Hospital this morning, leaving behind his wife and five children.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta pegged the estimated loss in the district from damaged crops at Rs 100 crore.

Defence minister and Congress MP from the district Pranab Mukherjee met Dasgupta for half-an-hour at the circuit house in Behrampore this morning and urged him to ensure supply of dry food, tarpaulin sheets, halogen tablets and pure drinking water.

Superintendent of police Gyanwant Singh said: 'I have asked the local police to find out why Saha took poison.'

Like Jadu, gram panchayat member Satyanarayan Das knew why. 'He was heavily in debt, had lost his crop and had his back to the wall.'

When informed about the suicide, Dasgupta called it 'very unfortunate', but added that he did not know about it till then.

With Saha's death, the toll in Murshidabad since last week's rain went up to five. About 6.6 lakh people are either marooned, homeless or in relief camps.

The finance minister, who visited Kandi, Bharatpur, Burwan, Khargram and Nabagram, was gheraoed by angry villagers at Goalpara (in Burwan). About 500 people from the village have been perching on an embankment of the Mayurakshi since 40 m of it caved in on Friday and the river flooded Goalpara.

The residents demanded maintenance of embankments. 'The contract for embankment maintenance goes to the local mafia, which neglects the work,' they told Dasgupta.

Mukherjee made an aerial survey of the affected areas adjoining Farakka. 'The situation is not good. Roads and the communication system have been badly hit. So, relief materials are not being distributed properly,' he said.

Mukherjee added that the Centre was willing to provide assistance, but Dasgupta told him it was not required.

The finance minister said: 'Supply of rice is being increased to 1,000 tonnes and tarpaulins to 1 lakh pieces. The irrigation department will be allotted Rs 80 lakh for repair of embankments damaged in 16 places in Murshidabad. The agriculture department will be given Rs 2 crore for distributing free seeds and fertilisers. The PWD will be allotted Rs 12 crore for road repairs in the district.'

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