HYDERABAD: A week before he killed himself, Simhadri Venkateshwar Rao, a tobaccco farmer, wrote a letter to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu with a question. If he could spend crores on customising a bus for his own safety, is a farmer's life worth nothing?
"For the sake of other farmers, I am ready to sacrifice my life," he warned in the letter that was also addressed to the Centre. On Tuesday, he acted on his threat by drinking pesticide.
The 49-year-old, who was from the West Godavari district, was neck deep in loans taken for his son's education and for the 33 acres of land he had leased to grow tobacco.
The police say Rao may have been depressed also because of huge hospital bills after an accident last year and his separation from his wife.
He left no suicide note but his last letter, to the Chief Minister, was a neon sign.
"The Chief Minister, for his own safety, has spent Rs. 5.5 crore on modifying a (state transport) bus. If his life is so valuable, a tobacco farmer's suicide brings his family on the road," Rao wrote.
"Isn't it the Chief Minister's responsibility to ensure that even one farmer doesn't commit suicide?"
The bus that the farmer referred to was commissioned by Mr Naidu last year when he decided to tour the state to monitor the impact of Cyclone Hudhud. The vehicle worked as a makeshift office with a sofa, television and tele-conferencing screen, besides a small bedroom.
Rao said there were 14,000 tobacco farmers like him who were all in debt and "had started committing suicide."
It is not clear whether the letter reached the Chief Minister; it was shared by his neighbours.
Andhra Pradesh has reported suicide deaths from districts like Anantpur and Guntur. Suicides by tobacco farmers are considered unusual - they are expected to be better off since tobacco is a cash crop.