A day after being sworn in, Rural Development Minister Vilasrao Deskmukh on Thursday said the Supreme Court's observation on his links with moneylenders who harass farmers was an "isolated incident". He also said there was no link between his new portfolio and farmer suicides in Maharashtra.
"One isolated incident cannot be connected with other things," Deshmukh told reporters after taking charge. The court last month had raised questions on the former Maharashtra chief minister's alleged links with money lenders who harass farmers in the state's Vidarbha region.
"I don't want to comment on the Supreme Court judgment. The judgment has come but we are looking for further remedy and this matter is already under discussion with my advocate," he said.
Deshmukh also said there was no link between his being chosen as the rural development minister and farmer suicides in Maharashtra.
"These two things cannot be connected and are two different things. In Maharashtra, the reasons were totally different and now, when the state government and prime minister have given some package, things have improved. It’s not that things have not improved," he said.
Deshmukh was the chief minister of Maharashtra from 1999 to 2003, and then from 2004 to 2008, and was accused of not taking enough action to stop the suicides.
But he said schemes to benefit rural people such as the rural jobs scheme NREGA had failed to work in Vidarbha.
"In the region of Vidarbha, where these suicides were committed, in that area even NREGA or the Maharashtra Rozgar Guarantee scheme (were implemented), we tried our best but couldn't get the proper manpower on work.
"There were so many reasons. Even though these schemes were implemented in Maharashtra, we did not get that much response from those areas. So these two things cannot be connected because this scheme is for the whole country covering 620 districts. It is spread over all the country now," he said.