Farmer`s death rocks Karnataka Assembly

The Karnataka legislature Thursday witnessed a ruckus and disruptions by opposition parties who sought a judicial probe into the suicide of a debt-ridden farmer.

IANS| Updated: Nov 29, 2013, 00:15 AM IST

Belgaum: The Karnataka legislature Thursday witnessed a ruckus and disruptions by opposition parties who sought a judicial probe into the suicide of a debt-ridden farmer near the state secretariat here, about 500 km from Bangalore.

In a damage control exercise, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah told lawmakers that the state government had increased the minimum purchase price for sugarcane by Rs.150 to Rs.2,650 per tonne this fiscal (2013-14).

"The increase in the purchase price is above Rs.2,500 per tonne the state sugarcane purchase and supply control board fixed Nov 9 and notified Nov 23, which is higher than the fair and remunerative price (FRP) Rs.2,100 per tonne fixed by the central government on the basis of 9.5 percent recovery for this fiscal," Siddaramaiah said.

Blaming the state government for the crisis brewing in the farming community, especially among sugarcane growers, opposition leaders and former chief ministers H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), Jagadish Shettar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and B.S. Yeddyurappa of the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) slammed the chief minister for delaying the hike in the minimum purchase price.

"Had the government been sensitive to the plight of farmers and announced the hike earlier, a precious life would have been saved," Kumaraswamy said, referring to the death of Vittal Arabhavi (52), a sugarcane farmer from Kanakawadi village in Belgaum district.

Arabhavi Wednesday consumed poison near the secretariat and collapsed at the spot where hundreds of farmers have been agitating, since the 10-day winter session of the state legislature began Monday, for non-payment of dues by mills and higher sugarcane price.

Relentless slogan-shouting and demonstrations in the well of the house forced assembly Speaker Kagodu Thimappa to adjourn the proceedings thrice during the day and finally the day`s session at 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, the chief minister held an emergent cabinet meeting in the secretariat to discuss the opposition`s demand to order a judicial probe into Arabhavi`s death.

The state government late Thursday ordered a magisterial inquiry into the farmer`s suicide.

As the third largest producer in the country after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, Karnataka crushes 33 million tonnes of cane in 58 mills to produce 3.4 million tonnes of sugar annually, with 10.4 percent recovery.

Shettar, also BJP`s floor leader, alleged that the state government had succumbed to pressure from mills on the price issue as a couple of ministers in the Congress government also owned sugar factories in the region.

BJP lawmakers led by former chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, former home minister R. Ashoka and Shettar took out a protest rally around the secretariat, wearing black ribbons.

They sought the chief minister`s resignation for failing to address the needs of farmers as the southwest monsoon was normal and a bumper harvest is expected this year.

Gowda said in the legislative council that the state government failed to protect interests of farmers by not conceding to their genuine demands.

Meanwhile, the body of Arabhavi was cremated outside his village in presence of hundreds of farmers, lawmakers, the chief minister and opposition leaders.