Haryana agriculture minister and BJP leader OP Dhankar triggered a controversy by describing farmers who commit suicide as cowards and criminals not worthy of help from the government.
"Why should we help them?" Dhankar said on Tuesday, adding the Haryana government could not support such farmers.
Dhankar said farmers were running away from their responsibilities and leaving their families and children with liabilities by committing suicide.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week urged all political parties to work together to help troubled farmers after one of them hanged himself at an Aam Aadmi Party rally in Delhi over proposed changes in the land acquisition law .
Dhankar had recently denied that any farmer had committed suicide due to crop damage in the state. Dhankar said the farmers of Haryana were tough and courageous and would not end their lives because of crop damage. "Haryana ka kisan dhadha hai, woh suicide nahi karega (Haryana farmer is tough and he would not commit suicide)," he said.
Dhankar, who earlier headed the Bharatiya Janata Party's Kisan Cell, has in the past condemned the previous UPA government for not doing enough for farmers, saying this had resulted in an increasing in suicides.
On Wednesday, Dhankar held a press conference to address media reports about his remark. “We strongly stand with the farmers,” he said. He, however, said Haryana was a “land of the brave” and it did not honour those who committed suicides.
“Some people have tried to ensure motivated murders,” he said, adding the government had done a lot for the farmers but its image was being tarnished with portraying murder cases as suicides.
Last week, Gajendra Singh, a father of three from Rajasthan, died after hanging himself from a tree during the AAP protest in the heart of the capital.
A sombre-looking Modi then asked his colleagues and rivals to join hands to help farmers battle the "age-old problem" of suicide, triggered in the recent past by crops devastated by unseasonable rains.
While Modi's opponents said Singh's suicide was a reaction to the proposed bill that will make it easier for businesses to acquire farmland, supporters of the ruling BJP said AAP workers should have done more to stop Singh from hanging himself.
After scores of debt-ridden farmers saw their winter crops damaged by unseasonal hailstorms and rains in states such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab, there were reports of a string of suicides.
Anger has also been mounting
in rural areas over Modi's land reform bill, which the government says is needed to speed up economic growth but political opponents say favours big business at the expense of struggling farmers.
With inputs from agencies