India farmers suicide
India: 25,000 farmers seek president's permission to commit suicide on Independence DayReuters

About 25,000 farmers from the northern Indian town of Mathura have written to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking permission to commit suicide on the forthcoming Independence Day.

The farmers, who have been struggling to get compensation from the government for submerged farmlands for 17 years, have said they will either hang themselves on 15 August or commit self-immolation if the government fails to act.

The farmers sent the letter via the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, one of the many offshoots of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS is the ideological mentor of the governing federal party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"In February this year, when the farmers sat on dharna [protest], officials had promised to sort out the matter in one month but the promise was never fulfilled. On the contrary, several protesters were falsely implicated for loot and dacoit," Kunwar Nishad, a representative of the organisation, told the Times of India.

"However, despite several assurances and the matter being raked up in parliament, the state government continues to turn a blind eye to the sufferings of these farmers."

Following the suicide threat, the district administration scrambled to placate the farmers.

"The state government is ready to pay four times extra compensation to the farmers. We have already submitted our files. The funds will be released soon," Mathura's district magistrate Rajesh Kumar told reporters.

The farmers have been seeking compensation for 700 hectares of farmlands which got submerged in 1998 owing to the construction of Gokul Barrage, a bridge between Mathura and Gokul across the river Yamuna. Government estimates the farmers want 8bn Indian rupees (£80m) in compensation.

Farmer suicides are not entirely uncommon in India. Thousands of farmers have ended their lives in the last few decades due to several reasons including droughts and inadequate government measures.