MUMBAI: There was a furore in Maharashtra political circles on Monday after a 84-year-old farmer, who had consumed poison at Mantralaya -- the state government headquarters -- succumbed late on Sunday.
The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party attacked the government terming it as "not a suicide, but a murder" by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine, even as senior ministers rushed to the hospital on Monday.
On January 22, the farmer from Dhule, Dharma Patil, had come to Mantralaya seeking enhanced compensation for his land that was acquired by the Maharashtra State Power Generation Company for a solar power project and even demanded to meet Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
However, he had suddenly collapsed and was rushed to St.George Hospital, and later shifted to Sir J.J. Hospital.
En route, Patil told his son that he had consumed rat poison. Later his condition became critical and he was put on dialysis, but succumbed late on Sunday night.
Maharashtra Congress President Ashok Chavan said "this is Patil's murder" for which the government is responsible and he should be given justice.
"The man had come seeking compensation for his land which was taken at a throwaway price of around Rs 400,000, while others in the neigbourhood were compensated in crores of rupees. He was totally crestfallen and wanted justice but the government ignored him, leaving him with no options," Chavan said in a stinging attack.
Leader of Opposition (NCP) in the Maharashtra Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde said Patil's death is the result of the "cruelty by the government" and the ruling BJP-Sena cannot give justice to the farmers.
Former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said he was "deeply pained by the death of the 84-year-old farmer" who fought against the insensitive and apathetic government.
"Messed up loan waiver, non-remunerative farm prices and cruel land acquisition with unfair compensation has ended another precious life," Chavan said, demanding a judicial probe into the matter.
"For whom is this government really working? If you cannot work in the interests of the people, you have no right to continue in power," said senior NCP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, assuring the victim's son Narendra Patil of support in his quest for justice.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader and MP Raju Shetty said the state government and its rehabilitation department is solely responsible for Patil's death.
"The officials should be booked under the offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Since there were no middlemen involved, he was given a compensation of only Rs 4 lakh," Shetti said.
Earlier on Monday, Patil's autopsy was performed and the body handed over to his family but they refused to take it unless a written assurance of additional value for the land was given by the government.
Meanwhile, as the issue appeared to snowball into a major controversy, the government gave a written assurance to Patil's family of enhancing the compensation.
Power Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule told mediapersons that he has ordered the district collector to re-evaluate 199 hectares of land and if the (Patil) family has been deprived of adequate compensation, they would be compensated along with interest.
Attempting to shift the blame on the previous Congress-NCP government, Bawankule said that the land belonging to Patil and other farmers had been surveyed for compensation between 2009-2015, when injustice was done to the (now) deceased farmer.