Rahul asks PM Modi to visit Punjab farmers, BJP hits back
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Rahul asks PM Modi to visit Punjab farmers, BJP hits back

Dozens of poverty-stricken, debt-laden farmers have killed themselves in the past two months after heavy downpours flattened rice, wheat and potato crops.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2015 23:31 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Rahul Gandhi,Narendra Modi,farmer suicides

A combative Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday ratcheted up pressure on the NDA government over the farm crisis, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit Punjab and acquaint himself with the misery of farmers.

Back from a 57-day sabbatical, the Congress vice-president took a train to Punjab on Tuesday and spent time at grain markets where anger has been mounting as farmers were finding it difficult to sell their produce from the spring harvest after unseasonal rain and hailstorms battered ripe winter crops.

“When the Prime Minister is on tour of India he should also visit Punjab and see for himself the condition of farmers who are not getting adequate compensation despite huge damage to their crops,” he told the Lok Sabha.

Video:Rahul says PM Modi should meet farmers in Punjab during his 'India visit'

Dozens of debt-laden farmers have killed themselves in the past two months after heavy downpour flattened rice, wheat and potato crops. In rural areas, discontent with government policies is turning to anger against the BJP-led government as it completes a year in office.

“When there was hailstorm, the government did not help. State governments used to give bonus, farmers tolerated its non-payment. Farmers were lathicharged when they asked for fertiliser. Now their produce is not being lifted from mandis,” Gandhi said, accusing the government of handing a raw deal to farmers.

Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, whose husband Sukhbir Singh Badal is the Punjab deputy chief minister, immediately jumped to Modi’s defence, asking the Congress leader to go to his constituency Amethi to see the plight of farmers there.

She wondered where he was when farmers were facing the fury of hailstorms, apparently referring to his sabbatical.

Her remarks brought Congress members to the well of the Lok Sabha, saying she should apologise “as Punjab is not a fiefdom of the Badals”.

Gandhi also took a swipe at Modi’s Make in India initiative, saying the campaign would only benefit “two-three friendly” industrialists. “Who contributes more than the farmers from Punjab in Make in India? Farming is also Make in India but there is no government for farmers,” he said.

"When you are talking about 'Make in India', is the farmer not making in India? Is the labourer not making in India? Is the small businessman not making in India?" he said outside Parliament, while responding to questions from reporters.

He didn’t spare Haryana agriculture minister Om Prakash Dhankar either for branding as cowards farmers who committed suicide after rain destroyed their crops.

“While farmers in the mandis are crying, the Haryana minister is saying farmers committing suicide are cowards,” Gandhi said amid cries of “shame, shame” from Opposition benches.

Since his return on April 16, Gandhi has spoken thrice in the Lok Sabha – twice on farmer issues and once on net neutrality — besides addressing a kisan rally at Ramlila Maidan.

On Thursday, he will launch a countrywide mass contact programme with a padyatra in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, where many debt-trapped farmers have committed suicide over the past four months.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Apr 29, 2015 16:14 IST