Patna: A middle aged debt-ridden farmer has allegedly committed suicide by consuming sulphas tablets in a village in Bihar’s Gopalganj district, creating anger and panic among villagers.
Farmer suicide is something not common in impoverished Bihar unlike in developed states, such as Maharashtra, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
The debt-ridden mariginal farmer, Manoj Tiwary,50, a resident of Brindaban village under Uchkagaon police station in Gopalganj, nearly 200 km from Patna, allegedly ended his life after being under pressure from a moneylender. This was revealed by none other than Tiwary himself, minutes before he breathed his last in Sadar Hospital on Tuesday. His statement was recorded by local TV channels in Gopalganj and also telecast there.
Tiwary, the father of eight minor children and only breadwinner of the family, reportedly blamed a moneylender for repeatedly pressuring him and harassing him to pay back the money lent to him for agriculture purpose.
Sarita Devi, the mukhiya (village body head), told NewsClick that Tiwary had been facing a financial crunch and was under stress due to loss-making agriculture. “We also heard from villagers that Tiwary was debt-ridden and was unable to pay back the loan he had taken. This debt story has been doing rounds in the village after he committed suicide”.
The sarpanch of the panchayat, Gayan Chandra, also said that Tiwary was passing through financial crunch and was under mental stress to pay back the debt that he had taken. “Personally, I have no information how much money he had taken from the moneylender. But one thing is certain, Tiwary was tense about managing his family”, he added.
Another villager, Mantu Srivastav, said Tiwari was also working at a nearby brick klin to earn money. But he was out of work during monsoon as the brick klin had shut due to rains.”I, too, have heard that Tiwary was debt-ridden”, he said.
According to villagers, the deceased’s family owns two bighas of land. Tiiwary used to be depressed as he had suffered losses in farming due to water stagnation in his fields. “Loss-making agriculture had put Tiwari, who was in a debt trap, in deep trouble as he was unable to repay debts to the moneylender”, an elderly villager said on condition of anonymity.
However, the local police have been downplaying the incident. Uchkagan police station officer incharge, Kiran Shankar, said Tiwary died after he consumed sulphas tablets but there was no information of any debt.
When asked about the recorded statement of Tiwary before he died, in which he reportedly stated that he had taken money from a shopkeeper-cum-moneylender, who was harassing him and had threatened him with dire consequences time and again, and had made it clear that he had decided to end life as he was unable to pay his debts, Shankar told NewsClick that neither Tiwary’s wife nor his brother informed police about the debt. “The police have so far not got any proof that links Tiwary’s death with debt, but one thing is clear, he was under stress due to financial problems following repeated crop loss”.
Gopalganj superintendent of police, Nitasha Gudiya, said she had asked the local police officials concerned to submit a detailed report in connection with the case. “Police will take action on the basis of the investigation report”, she added.
Bihar Agriculture Minister Prem Kumar has also denied such an link, saying it was a suicide case, but not of a debt-ridden farmer.
About two-thirds of Bihar’s population of 10.5 crore is dependent on agriculture for t livelihood. Agriculture is the backbone of Bihar’s economy, employing 81% of the workforce and generating nearly 42% of the state’s domestic product, according to state government’s figures.