Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday tore into the NDA government for the country’s farm crisis as he launched a “save farmer march” in Odisha’s rice bowl, which is saddled with a string of peasant suicides.
Gandhi embarked on a 7km padyatra from Debahali village in Bargarh, the state’s top rice-producing district, where he met the family of Sananda Kathar, a farmer who committed suicide following crop loss in July 2014.
“The farmers work hard to provide food to the nation. They have nothing except their land, but the NDA government wants to snatch away farmers’ land and give it away to big businesses,” he said, highlighting his party’s opposition to the government’s attempts to amend the 2013 land law.
He asked if debt-ridden farmers committing suicide is the achche din or good days promised by Modi.
More than 3,600 farmers, including 474 women, had committed suicide in Odisha since 1999, state agriculture minister Pradip Maharathy told the assembly on August 21.
But he rebuffed reports that these farm deaths were related to crop loss or any other agricultural crisis.
Most of the deaths have been reported in Bargarh district, the latest being the suicide of a 24-year-old farmer on Wednesday.
Gandhi has been travelling across the country — from Punjab to Andhra Pradesh — meeting distressed farmers after unseasonal rain and hailstorms battered farmlands early this year.
“Our party had always been with farmers and labourers and reformed the old land acquisition law by bringing in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, to protect them,” he told a gathering at Bargarh.
But the Modi government tried to change the law thrice to snatch away farmers’ land and give them to big businesses, he said.
“We said farmers’ land could not be taken away without their consent and if land is acquired with their consent farmers as well as farm labourers have to be compensated adequately. Modiji said there was no need to seek farmers’ consent to take their land away.”
The Congress leader didn’t spare the ruling BJD in Odisha either, saying it was hand in gloves with the NDA government.