Jan Sangarsh Morcha Press Release
  26 November 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Power Policy of Digvijay Singh Government Responsible for the Suicide of Farmer Okte; Government Should Stop Destitution of the Farmers At the Behest of ADB and Take Back Proposed Tariff Hike

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org
Near Bohra Masjid, Betul, MP
Tel: 07141-33971

It is a matter of great sorrow and irony that while the MP Government and the MP Electricity Board, unmindful of the serious power problems of the people of the state, are busy preparing for the visit of the Asian Development Bank officials in Jabalpur hoping for a pat on the back from their "foreign masters", on 25th November a farmer was driven to commit suicide in the office of the MPSEB since he could not obtain power connection in spite of making the payment for it.

It is clear that the MPSEB and the MP Government are dancing to the tune played by the ADB, while the common people, farmers and labourers of the state are being pushed to destitution. It is the total failure of the power policy of the state that the farmer was left with no option but to take his own life in desperation.

Jan Sangharsh Morcha express profound grief and anger on the tragic and unnecessary death of farmer Shri Kishen Okte and warns the Government that if it does not give up its anti-people power policies made at the behest of the ADB, then it will have to face the wrath of the people. The JSM pledges that it will take this issue of the helplessness of Shri Okte and his death due to the policies of the Digvijay Singh Government to every corner of the state and will fight for justice to the farmers.

The JSM has organised a Bijli Bachao Azadi Bachao Yatra from 15th Nov. that is on its way through 22 districts of the state. The yatra in Jabalpur division reached Chindwada today after passing through the districts of Jabalpur, Mandla, Seoni. The yatra went to the village Linga of Shri Kishen Okte and JSM activist Chittaroopa Palit, Brijkishor Chourasiya of Seoni district, Bablo Patwa of Bargi Dam Affected People's Organisation and others met the family of Shri Okte and offered condolences.

Shri Okte, who owns one acre of land, had last year tried to start irrigation in his land by installing a one horsepower motor. For this, he had taken a loan of Rs. 36,000/- from the bank. It was this loan that was to lead him to suicide. His wife and young daughter has to go for wage labour to raise money for the temporary power connection. In spite of paying for the connection, he was not given electric supply. Jan Sangharsh Morcha condemns this action of the MPSEB.

After meeting the family, the yatra joined the protest meeting and roadblock organised by Ms Aradhana Bhargava of Kranti Dal in Linga. She appealed to the people of Chindwada to join in large numbers the demonstration in front of the MPSEB Headquarters in Jabalpur on 29th Nov. with the slogan "ADB Quit India" and the massive rally and demonstration in Bhopal on 30th Nov. for the culmination of the yatra.

JSM calls on the MP Government to withdraw the proposed power tariff hike. It may be recollected that in Sept. this year, the MPSEB filed a petition in the MP Electricity Regulatory Commission asking for huge hikes in power tariffs. These range from 300% hike for farmers with irrigation from wells and 600% for farmers irrigating from rivers and canals, and 450% for temporary connections. When Shri Okte could not make the legitimate and illegitimate payments demanded by the MPSEB and was driven to commit suicide in the office of the MPSEB, what will happen when these rates are increased steeply? As it is , with the WTO policies, the situation of the farmer is really bad with rising input costs and falling prices for his produce.

On 23rd Nov, the yatra had discussions with people from 20 villages and selected people's representatives in Bargi. There was a public meeting in Mandla on 24th Nov. There was a discussion session on 24th Nov. in Soeni. Those participating included Brij Kishore Chaurasiya of Jay Yuvak Kranti Dal, Ashok Maskol of Gondwana Mahasabha, Jamilbhai of Bhimgadh Dam Affected People's Organisation, Sabulala Uike of Tribal Tiger and Mohan Singh Baghel of Jan Samasya Nivaran Manch.

Chittaroopa Palit
Babloo Patwa