2 set themselves ablaze outside MLA's office over land bribe demand

Two young farmers in Telangana set themselves ablaze outside the office of a lawmaker of the state's ruling party on Sunday in protest against a bribe demand of Rs20,000.

The incident took place on Sunday outside an office of Rasamayi Balakishan, a legislator of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), in Karimnagar, around 160 km from Hyderabad. M Srinivas, 25, and Y Parushuramulu, 23, are both now in a government hospital with severe burns.

Srinivas and Parasuram had gone to their village revenue office to claim land under a scheme for Dalits or underprivileged farmers. The officer there allegedly demanded Rs20,000 to facilitate the process.

On Saturday, they went with a group of villagers to complain about the bribe demand to their local lawmaker. They waited for more than five hours before they were told that the politician couldn't meet them.

Angry and frustrated, Srinivas and Parushuramulu poured kerosene over themselves and lit a match.

"We waited from 10 am to 3:30 pm. Then we were asked to leave without a meeting," said a villager who was with them.

The two who were prevented from committing suicide alleged that the village revenue office (VRO) was not only asking for a bribe of Rs20,000 for the land, but some officers were also distributing the lands to ineligible beneficiaries.

One of the victims said, "For the past many days, we have been raising the issue that certain plots in our village were being allocated to non-beneficiaries. The VRO had also asked for a bribe and were told that the list for land distribution was out and our names were not there."

"When we went to meet the joint collector, he was very rude and asked us to leave. Then we tried to meet the MLA and waited till evening, but he did not meet us. There were no options left for us."

Amid an outcry by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, state finance minister Etela Rajender said there would be an investigation and disciplinary action would be taken against the village revenue officer if it was proved that he had demanded bribe.

Speaking to media, Rajender said, "We have suspended the VRO and an inquiry has been ordered into the allegations of wrongful allocation of land and the collector has been asked to submit a report. Sixty acres of land have been distributed in the area to the poor and if needed, more land will be sanctioned.''

In a separate incident last week, a TRS worker set himself on fire at a party meeting where state minister P Mahender Reddy was present. The worker allegedly delivered a speech, climbed off the dais and suddenly set himself on fire.