An elderly farmer in Uttar Pradesh who had been part of a group of sugarcane cultivators organising a dharna for the past five days demanding that a procurement centre be shifted died on Wednesday.
Shyoraj Singh, 62, fell unconscious around 1pm and died on the way to a nursing home. Doctors said he had suffered a cardiac arrest. Another protesting farmer, Vinod Singh, 55, suffered a heart attack around an hour after Shyoraj fell ill and has been hospitalised.
Over 50 farmers have been on a dharna outside the office of the Baghpat district sugarcane officer in Baraut town since Friday, demanding that a procurement centre be shifted.
“Last month, a brawl had broken out between the sugarcane farmers and some local people who live near the government purchase centre at Baraut town. Farmers, fearing they might be attacked if they go to that area again, are demanding that the centre to shifted,” said Kuldeep Singh, one of the farmers.
“We had written to the government to open a sugarcane purchase centre at the Gadhi Gaon locality of Baraut. The farmers are ready to collectively donate Rs 4 lakh to the local administration to make necessary arrangements for the purchase centre,” Kuldeep added.
“Today, Shyoraj Singh suddenly fell unconscious around 1pm. We took him to a nursing home in Baraut and he was referred to a medical college in Meerut. Shyoraj died on the way. Vinod Singh suffered a heart attack after an hour and was admitted to a local hospital,” Kuldeep said.
Prakash Chand, another farmer, said: “We have to pass through narrow lanes in our bullock carts and tractor trolleys to reach the purchase centre near Cooperative Sugar Mill. Some locals had objected to it, saying we were damaging the roads. They prevented us from passing through these lanes. A local youth was killed during a fight in August. Thereafter, the villagers and the farmers have clashed many time.”
District cane officer Anil Kumar Bharati said the administration was “discussing the problems” of the farmers with senior officials. “We hope to solve the matter soon,” he said.
Prakash Chand, however, alleged that officials were misbehaving with them.
“The officials use foul language and threaten us with consequences if we don’t withdraw our dharna. The police say they will book us soon under serious charges if we don’t disperse,” he said.