A day after a potato farmer allegedly committed suicide after suffering heavy losses, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said her government will purchase 28,000 tonnes of potatoes, required for Anganwadi centres and midday meal programme, directly from farmers. Her announcement comes at a time when potato farmers across the State are facing a severe crisis — at least two of them have committed suicide — due to the sharp drop in prices following this years’ bumper crop.Krishak Dibas“We have decided to buy 28,000 tonnes of potatoes directly from the farmers which we need every month for the Anganwadi centres and the midday meal programme. The government will buy potatoes at ₹4.60 per kg,” she said. Ms. Banerjee was speaking at a government programme on Krishak Dibas (Farmers’ Day) observed by the Trinamool Congress government on March 14 to pay tribute to those who died during the anti-land acquisition movements at Singur in Hooghly district and Nandigram in Purba Medinipur district. As per the projected estimates of the State government, the number of schools (up to Class VIII) to be covered under the midday meal scheme is 83,673 and the number of students is about 1 crore. According to potato merchants, this is the first time that the TMC government is directly purchasing potatoes from farmers.The development comes a day after a potato farmer allegedly committed suicide due to losses in farming in the Anandapur area of Paschim Medinipur district’s Keshpur block. According to his family, Swapan Hajra (45) committed suicide after sustaining “heavy losses” in potato farming. ‘Heavy debt’“He incurred a large debt for cultivating potatoes in four bighas (1.60 acres) of land,” Mr. Hajra’s son Indrajit told journalists.The Opposition, however, is sceptical whether the move will be beneficial for the potato farmers. “This is nothing but a face saving move. If the TMC government is really bothered about the farmers they would have purchased potato from them at a much higher rate,” said CPI-M district secretary of Paschim Medinipur Tarun Roy.