Gajendra Singh Poster. (Photo: Jasvinder Sehgal)

Gajendra Singh Poster. (Photo: Jasvinder Sehgal)

More than a thousand people have come to the funeral of Gajendra Singh in his home village of Nangal Jhamarwada in Dausa.

Amongst the grieving family are political leaders from the opposition Congress Party.

Witnesses say the farmer climbed to the top of a tree during the anti-government rally in New Delhi and tied a scarf around his neck. Some people reportedly tried to stop him from hanging himself but his brother Brijender believes more could have been done.

“My brother would have been alive if someone at the rally seriously tried to save him. I don’t want to blame anybody but I just know; a farmer climbed a tree to commit suicide. He was a human being who should have been saved. There is something broken when farmers commit suicide,” he said.

According to a United Nation report released in 2007 every 32 minutes a farmer in India kills themselves.

His relative Gopal Singh says that before committing suicide Gajendra threw a suicide note into the crowd which says he lost his entire crop in last month’s rain and hailstorm.

“But the local officials said that it was only 23 percent damage so that meant he didn’t qualify for government compensation,” he explained.  

His death sparked intense debate in the national parliament. Opposition parties are demanding an independent investigation into the case.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking in parliament said he was shocked by the death.

“I share this grief. We should work together to find the solution. The farmers' plight is an old, deep-rooted problem. The government is open to suggestions. Nothing is more valuable than a farmer’s life. Please give me suggestions; I will take them into account. We all collectively will look for a way. We can’t betray the interests of the farmers and cannot leave them without support but for this we need to work together,” he told the parliament.  

A national independent commission into the high suicide rate amongst farmers delivered its findings in 2006.

But Dr. Satish Batra the former head of economics at the University of Rajasthan says the government has failed to act on the recommendations:

“Let us go for soil health testing, let us go for insurance, crop insurance, and let us ensure that the farmers get due price of their produce. If you compare of the last year, the price of non-farm products increased much more than the price of farm produce. That’s the biggest reason the farmers are compelled to adopt this nasty method and I think if we do all these things through institutional reforms, through marketing reforms, through social reforms we will be able to combat this tendency to a great extent,” he said.  

72 year old Punjab farmer Sultan Singh’s younger brother committed suicide last year.

He says the problem is debt and fear about the government’s controversial land acquisition bill.

“They take loans but are hardly able to return them. More over the new bill brought to grab their land will further worsen their problem,” he said.  

The bill makes it easier for land to be acquired for infrastructure projects.

The government says it is aimed at kick-starting stalled projects across the country worth billions of dollars.

The opposition says it will make it easy for big business to kick farmers off their land.

The bill was passed in the lower house of parliament last month but has not yet been approved by the upper house, where the ruling BJP party is in the minority.

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