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Asia

Farmer hangs himself from tree at New Delhi rally

A farmer has committed suicide in India by hanging himself from a tree during a protest rally in New Delhi. Hundreds of Indian farmers have killed themselves this year after unseasonal rains destroyed their crops.

A farmer from India's western state Rajasthan hanged himself from a tree at a protest rally in New Delhi.

The man, Ganjendra Singh Rajput, left a suicide note, in which he said, "My father drove me out of the house because my crop failed. Please tell me, how do I go back home?"

Hundreds of Indian farmers have committed suicide this year after heavy rains spoiled their winter wheat produce. The government has not released figures, but media organizations and NGOs estimate the number of deaths between 200 and 600 as of March 2015.

Leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), who organized the rally to protest New Delhi's new law that made land acquisition easier for multinational organizations, said they did not sense immediately that the farmer was trying to kill himself when he climbed the tree.

"Initially we did not realize what was happening. Many people climb trees at the rallies at Jantar Mantar [in New Delhi] to get a better view." Volunteers of the AAP rushed the farmer to a nearby hospital, where he was declared dead.

Opposition politicians demand government action

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose government has come under criticism for not taking farmers' deaths seriously, expressed his condolences.

Opposition leader Sachin Pilot of the Congress party described the suicide as unfortunate. "Thousands of farmers are killing themselves, more are contemplating suicide. Those who occupy positions of responsibility must consider why this has happened," Pilot added.

Modi's government needs to address these issues on a "war footing," said prominent activist Madhu Kishwar, drawing attention to the deteriorating situation of agrarian communities in India.

According to government data, 11,772 farmers in 2013 and 13,754 the year before committed suicide because of heavy unseasonal rains or droughts, that led to low crop yields and rendered growers incapable of paying back loans. Expensive seeds like those of genetically modified crops have also put farmers in debt.

Earlier this month, the Indian Minister for Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh insisted that only around one tenth of these deaths could be attributed to "agrarian distress" or cases in which suicide notes were found, the Indian media reported.

Singh's statement was severely criticized by rights' organizations and NGOs.

mg/sms (AFP, dpa)

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