"The incident occurred when Vithal Arabhavi, 52, consumed poison and collapsed after addressing fellow farmers, protesting near the secretariat, seeking payment of arrears for their sugarcane crop by a mill owner," a senior police official told reporters in Belgaum.

Though Arabhavi from Kankanwadi village of Belgaum district, about 500 km from Bangalore, was rushed to a hospital, he died on the way, leading to protests by farmers who sought compensation for his family.

Arabhavi was in debt, having raised Rs 6 lakh from banks and money lenders to grow sugarcane on his 2.5-acre field.

"Depressed for failing to repay the debt, Arabhavi went behind the stage where farmers were demonstrating since Monday for arrear payment and higher support price from the state government, and consumed a pesticide," the official said.

The suicide caused pandemonium in the state assembly, as opposition parties slammed the ruling Congress government for failing to address grievances of sugarcane farmers.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced Rs10 lakh compensation for Arabhavi's family. Former chief minister and Karnataka Janata Party president BS Yeddyurappa announced that he would donate Rs 5 lakh to the bereaved family.

Former chief minister and Janata Dal-Secular leader HD Kumaraswamy, who staged a sit-in outside the assembly with his party lawmakers, said he would also give Rs 5 lakh to the deceased farmer's family.

Meanwhile, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader in the Assembly, Jagadish Shettar told reporters that his party would also give Rs 5 lakh to the family.

Though the state government announced a support price of Rs 2,500 for one tonne of sugarcane, farmers have been demanding Rs 2,800-3,000 per tonne as the cost of inputs, including fertilizers and fuel, have shot up.

The opposition parties moved an adjournment motion in the assembly for an immediate discussion on the plight of sugarcane farmers in the state, the third largest producer of sugar in the country.


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