‘Would’ve died at home too’: Haryana minister on farmers’ deaths during protests
Haryana agriculture minister Jai Prakash Dalal’s comments on farmers' deaths during the ongoing protests against Centre’s new farm laws on Saturday gave rise to a controversy as he said the farmers "would have died at home too".
When Dalal was asked about the death of farmers, the minister said, "Wouldn't they still die if they were at home?” In a viral video, the minister can be heard saying in Hindi, "Tell me what's that average age in India and how many (farmers) die every year? They have died in the same ratio. Out of one to two lakh, do 200 people not die in six months? Someone is dying of a heart attack and someone after falling ill."
When asked why no condolences have been offered to those who died during the agitation while the Prime Minister expresses grief when people are killed in accidents, Dalal said, "but they didn't die in accidents. They died by choice... Anyway, I offer my deepest condolences to all those who died."
The Haryana minister said, “The common farmer is naive, some joined (the protests) due to sympathy, some due to community or for some other reason.”
As the video went viral, Congress national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also took to Twitter to slam the minister. “These words can only be used by an insensitive and riteless person for the struggling contributors in the movement. Shame, but they don't know Haryana Agriculture Minister JP Dalal, who first described farmers as pro-Pakistan and China, should be dismissed from the cabinet,” he wrote on Twitter in Hindi.
Dalal later apologised for his comments and alleged that they were "twisted" and a "wrong meaning" was given to his statement. "During the press conference, I condoled the demise of farmers who died during the protest. Even if a person dies unnaturally, it is painful. As far as the matter of giving the status of martyred is considered, the Jawans are given this status as the government has made policy for it," the minister was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
"My statement was twisted and the wrong meaning was given to it. I saw the video on social media. I tender my apologies if somebody was hurt by my statement. As Haryana's Agriculture Minister, I am working for the welfare of the farmers," he said.