Burdwan, April 19: When two farmers entangled in a web of poverty and debt chose to end their lives, they created a pre-election quagmire that the CPM had hardly anticipated.
The alleged suicides by the two farmers over lack of water for irrigation and mounting debts has given the Trinamul Congress added teeth to fight in the CPM dens of Galsi and Ketugram in Burdwan.
Ketugram goes to the polls on May 3 and Galsi on May 7.
Quick on the trigger, district Trinamul leaders blamed the suicides on the Left Front government and the local panchayat for their alleged failure to provide adequate water for irrigation.
Ramchandra Murmu of Bhepur village in Galsi died at the Burdwan Medical College Hospital on Saturday night. Ganesh Majhi of Nirol village in Ketugram passed away early yesterday at the same hospital. Both had allegedly consumed pesticides.
A senior district police officer said: “We are awaiting the post-mortem report to ascertain the real cause behind the deaths.”
Ramchandra’s son, Somnath, said his father, who cultivated paddy on a five-bigha plot, committed suicide because he feared a failed crop given the lack of rain.
“My father thought he would manage to irrigate his land with water from a shallow tube well. Other farmers also had faced water shortage but they dug their tube wells deeper and got water. My father also tried but he did not get water.
“He was scared that his crop would be destroyed. That is why we think he drank pesticide,” said Somnath.
Ganesh Majhi, a 23-year-old sharecropper, drank pesticide on Sunday night. Elder brother Mahadeb said Ganesh had bought fertilisers and pesticides worth Rs 10,000 on credit to cultivate paddy on a three and a half bigha plot.
“But the shallow tube well he was sharing with a few other farmers was not being able to draw enough water. So, he committed suicide fearing his crop would be destroyed,” said Mahadeb.
“The suicides show the situation a large number of farmers face in these areas. We have decided to use this as an election campaign plank,” Arup Das, the Burdwan Trinamul general secretary, said.
Trinamul has fielded candidates in both Galsi and Ketugram. An agriculture department official said most of the district got water for irrigation from the reservoirs of the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) in Maithon, Panchet and Durgapur. “But this year there is not much water in the reservoir to supply for irrigation for the boro crop,” said the official.
A DVC official in Burdwan admitted the problem.
“We have informed the state government that we will not be able to supply water for irrigation of boro crops because of lack of adequate water in the reservoirs,” the official said.
Trinamul leaders said the government as well as the CPM-run panchayats in Galsi and Ketugram should have taken steps for construction of new tube wells and repaired those that have become defunct.
“The government did not take any step. It should have become alert after three farmers committed suicides in Ausgram in September last year,” Das said.
Trinamul leaders began their campaign yesterday evening with the suicides as the main issue at Ketugram.
“We held street-corner meetings and will be putting up posters and distributing leaflets depicting the plight of the farmers here,” Bikash Majumdar, a Ketugram-based Trinamul leader, said.
Trinamul began campaigning in Galsi today. “We will make the suicide of a farmer in Galsi an issue in our campaigns in this area,” Joydeb Saha, the Trinamul candidate from Galsi, said.
Local CPM leader Durjodhan Sar, however, said the suicides were not because of a lack of water.