A delegation of Congress MPs, led by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday to press for their demand for loan waiver for debt-ridden farmers in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
The delegation comprised leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, party’s leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh and other MPs from UP and Punjab.
The UP and Punjab units of the main opposition party collected more than 2.5 crore application forms for loan waiver in the past three months during Gandhi’s farmer outreach programme in the two states. The Congress plans to hand over these forms to the government.
- More than half the country’s farming households are in debt, owing banks and moneylenders hundreds of crores of rupees, despite numerous loan write-offs by successive governments. Political leaders have often promised to waive farmers’ loan repayments. But critics say underlying reasons for the farmers’ chronic indebtedness have not been addressed.
During the meeting, which is the first time that Gandhi met Modi on any issue, they also submitted a memorandum on the subject.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Rahul Gandhi said, “This government has waived off loans of Rs 1.40 lakh crore to corporates. So we urged the government to waive off the loans of the farmers as well.”
Met the PM on the plight of our farmers;urged Govt to waive loans of farmers &provide relief to them at the earliesthttps://t.co/c8dl12eucC— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) December 16, 2016
Gandhi’s programme was aimed at striking a chord with the community that is disillusioned with the political class for its “failure” to address the problems of the agriculture sector.
His 26-day Kisan Yatra in Uttar Pradesh and the 10-day farmers’ outreach in Punjab primarily focused on three major demands – loan waiver, increased minimum support price (MSP) and reduction in their power bills by 50%.
The BJP-led NDA government has faced flak for its handling of the agrarian crisis with the Congress alleging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “failed” to keep his poll promise to beleaguered farmers. Gandhi has repeatedly accused the Prime Minister of siding with the corporate sector and ignoring the farmers.
The Congress also cites the National Crime Record Bureau figures to corner the Modi government over farmers’ suicides.
The meeting comes in the midst of a bitter war of words between the Congress and the BJP on the demonetisation issue with Gandhi alleging he has information about the “personal corruption” by the PM.
The Congress V-P has also alleged that the ruling side did not allow him to speak on the note ban issue in the Lok Sabha as it was “scared” of him. “If they allow me to speak then you will see what an earthquake will come,” he had warned.
Later in the day, Gandhi will also lead a delegation of opposition leaders to meet President Pranab Mukherjee to register their protest against Modi’s demonetisation move and the “severe hardships it has unleashed” on the citizens.
This is the second time that the Opposition leaders are meeting the President over the notes ban move.