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Bank Manager held for farmer’s suicide in Maharashtra

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Amravati:  In an unprecedented move, the Maharashtra Police has booked the branch manager of a nationalized bank, as responsible for the recent suicide of a farmer, an official was quoted on Monday.

The accused, Santosh Kumar (37), is the manager of the Bank Of Maharashtra’s Morshi Branch in the district, and has secured an anticipatory bail in the case.

Strangely, even before the FIR pertaining to abetment of suicide was lodged against Kumar, the BoM management suspended him – to which, the bank’s union has cried foul.

In his anticipatory bail plea, Santosh Kumar contended that he is being victimized and harassed, since he refused to abide by the diktats of local Bharatiya Janata Party legislator from Morshi, Anil S. Bonde, whom he did not name.

“All this is totally unacceptable. We have lodged a strong protest with the bank management. We have demanded BoM to take up the matter with the highest level in the government, and other concerned bodies,” an agitated Sunil Deshpande, president of the Bank Of Maharashtra Officers’ Organisation (BOMOO) said.

Deshpande said that a farmer, Sudhir Gawande (40), of Nashirpur village, and some others had approached the branch manager for further farm loans on Friday noon.

However, since the existing loan account – which was in the name of Gawande’s father, Wamanrao Gawande, who is alive, showed an outstanding due of around Rs.400,000, he was asked to come later.

“He went home and late Friday evening, we learnt that he consumed liquor, and then hanged himself in his home. The local villagers did not allow his funeral to be completed that night, and even the next morning (Saturday), till the police registered a complaint against Santosh Kumar,”  said BOMOO deputy general secretary, Sunil Rajkarne, based in Amravati

Bowing to demands by local politicians, including Bonde and Shetkari Sanghatana, leader Sanjay Kolhe, and even officials from the district collectorate, the Amravati police lodged a FIR against Santosh Kumar on Saturday.

“How can a bank branch manager be held responsible for any customer’s – in this case, the farmer’s – suicide? If this kind of hounding continues, it will be very difficult for bankers to work in such suicide-prone regions in the country,” Deshpande declared.

The bank union moved swiftly and the next day, moved an anticipatory bail application in Amravati district court, which was granted to Santosh Kumar.

“This is sheer political vendetta against an upright officer hailing from Bihar, as he refused to obey the diktats of the local legislator Bonde,” Rajkarne fumed.

He said that on May 9, Bonde had called Santosh Kumar and asked him to sanction a crop loan for the farmer, which the bank manager refused as it would be irregular and against the rules.

“At that time, Bonde asked me where I was, and I informed him that I was at the railway station waiting to catch a train to Patna, my home town. Shockingly, he ordered me to ‘remain in Patna and never return’ to Morshi,” Santosh Kumar was quoted saying.

When contacted, Bonde admitted that he may “have said something on these lines in a fit of anger,” as most bank officials in entire Vidarbha lack interest in working for the farmers.

“Santosh Kumar is especially notorious for being insensitive to farmers issues and I have received many complaints from farmers against him,” Bonde said, adding that he asked him (Kumar) to work with dedication since he has come all the way from Bihar.

Bonde said he has plans to launch an agitation against all bank officers in the Vidarbha region who are working against the farmers’ interests.

Both Rajkarne and Deshpande feel Santosh Kumar is being targeted and victimized, as the legislator’s ego was bruised by his upright behavior.

However, they pointed out that the suspension, police FIR, and subsequent hounding of the bank officer sends a very negative message to the entire banking industry.

On Monday afternoon, Rajkarne led a delegation to the Bank Of Maharashtra Zonal Office, and demanded revocation of Santosh Kumar’s suspension failing which, they would launch an agitation.

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Indian Farmers reason behind Smog in Pakistan

Smog in Pakistan has affected the health of people but also caused road accidents.

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Indian Farmers causing smog in Pakistan
Indian Farmers causing smog in Pakistan. wikimedia commons
  • Pakistani officials have said that stubble burning by Indian farmers has caused a thick blanket of smog in Punjab province which led to smog in Pakistan as well.

The officials with Environment Protection Department of Punjab province told Xinhua news agency on Saturday night that the smog is causing various diseases and the provincial government is taking measures to control the situation.

The department’s minister Zakia Shah Nawaz Khan said that the smog engulfed the province for the last two weeks, and is feared to continue for the coming week.

She added that the smoke from the Indian farms moved at a velocity of 7 to 8 km per hour towards Punjab province.

Also Read: Restrictions on Freedom of Expression: Pakistani Journalists Struggle with Growing Threats from Government and Militants alike

Local experts said that the total Air Quality Index in the provincial capital of Lahore is 357 whereas the maximum limit should be around 100, adding that if the situation was not controlled, the level is feared to exceed 500 soon.

Syed Mubashir Hussain, an official of the environment department said that the provincial government has banned stubble burning across the province and violators were being arrested.

A total of 197 First Information Reports have been filed against violators and 65 people have been arrested due to stubble burning and solid waste burning.

Some 175 pollution-causing units have been stopped. About 15,718 smoke emitting vehicles have been confiscated, and a total of 43 lakh Pakistani rupees (about $43,000) fine has been imposed, Hussain told Xinhua.

Apart from this, brick kilns using substandard fuel and running their units without emission control devices like wet scrubbers, electrostatic precipitators and fly ash arrestors have also been closed, he added.

Smog in Pakistan has not only affected the health of people but also caused road accidents. According to local media reports, at least 18 people have been killed and 45 others injured in separate fog-related accidents across the province.

Air traffic was also affected due to smog-caused low visibility. Six domestic flights from various airports have been suspended due to smog in Pakistan, spokesperson of Pakistan International Airlines said in a statement.

The Met office said that smog will disappear after rains or heavy winds, but there was no possibility of any of it in the next 48 hours.( IANS)

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