Lucknow: A week after the Uttar Pradesh police registered over 1,150 First Information Report (FIRs) against farmers in the state for burning paddy stubble and violating orders of the Deputy Magistrate in the district concerned, a 30-year-old farmer died allegedly due to shock after the Lekhpal (revenue official) in Barabanki district, hardly 50 kilometres from the state capital of Lucknow, allegedly threatened him with a hefty fine in the name of stubble burning.
Read Also: ‘Farmers Not Solely Responsible for Pollution’: BKU Condemns Stubble Burning Arrests
The farmer, Pradeep Singh, resident of Bali Gerava village of Subeha police station area, had reportedly gone to meet Lekhpal Rajendra Prasad after villagers complained about stubble burning in his field on Thursday. Amit, uncle of the deceased, said that the regional accountant had come to their house a day earlier and allegedly threatened to lodge an FIR, accusing Singh of burning stubble.
According to Singh’s family members, after the Lekhpal’s threat, he fell unconscious. Fellow farmers who accompanied him to the Tehsildar’s office in Haidargarh, took him to the Barabanki District Hospital where the doctor declared him brought dead, after which the police seized the dead body and sent it for post-mortem.
According to the family, Singh was in a disturbed state of mind after he returned from the meeting with the Tehsildar. He complained of chest pain, he took his last breath on the way to the hospital, the family claims.
"My son died due to mental torture by = Tehsildar Rajendra Prasad. Lekhpal recorded a video of my son while burning stubble in the field and was blackmailing him to give bribe or face dire consequences. My son along with village head Sarju went to meet Tehsildar but he instead threatened him and asked to pay Rs 5,000 as fine for burning stubble. He was told that if he fails to pay the amount, he will be booked for violating the government’s order," the victim’s father told NewsClick, adding that since he returned home, Singh was deeply disturbed and suddenly complained of chest-pain and died after an hour.
Elaborating on their financial state, Singh’s father said: "My son Pradeep had taken a bank loan for farming and was not able to repay it. Suddenly the Tehsildar demanded Rs 5,000 ‘fine’ for burning stubble. We hardly manage food for a day, how can we arrange Rs 5,000. My son could not bear this shock and died," he said, holding the Tehsildar responsible for his son death.
However, when NewsClick approached Lekhpal Prasad, he denied allegations of mental torture and said he had only enquired about the burnt stubble in Singh's field.
NewsClick tried to reach the SDM Barabanki and local police station for their comments on the matter, but in vain.
This is the second such case in Uttar Pradesh where a farmer has died of ‘shock’ after the district administration allegedly threatened to take legal action for stubble burning. A 50-year old farmer Banne Khan of Lakh village in Kannauj district died in October reportedly due to ‘shock’ when a district official came to his home and asked him to pay Rs 5,000 as ‘fine’ for burning stubble. Already facing a financial crisis, Khan could not bear this shock and died, his son Yusuf alleged.
Meanwhile, in a veiled attack on Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the ruling Bharatiya Janata party, the opposition Samajwadi Party(SP) leader Rajesh Yadav Raju, who visited the victim family in Barabanki, termed the action taken against farmers as amounting to "atrocities".
"The Yogi Adityanath government is anti-farmer. The farmers are being sent to jail for burning stubble while thousands of factories are operating, causing heavy pollution and no action is being taken against them. If the government does not give compensation to the victim's family and initiate legal action against culprit, the entire team of SP will hit the road and stage a massive protest in Lucknow." he told NewsClick.
Meanwhile, expressing outrage over the incidents, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) staged protest in Barabanki and demanded that the district administration take legal action against the Lekhpal. BKU said if the aggrieved farmer was not compensated by the Uttar Pradesh government in a week, then it would take to the streets.
The issue of burning of parali (waste of paddy crop) by farmers across Uttar Pradesh, which has led to critical air pollution in the national capital region over the past few weeks, has resulted in the arrest of over a 100 farmers in the state and registered nearly 1,200 FIRs against farmers.
Farmers in several districts allege they are being harassed by the police over the farm waste matter. This has led to discontent among the farming community, mainly because most growers have no access to any other technique apart from burning stubble so that they can grow the next crop. “We have no other option but to burn parali although the process damages the soil,” Harinam Singh Verma, vice president of BKU, Uttar Pradesh said.