Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu said today that seeking farm loan waiver had become a “fashion”, but later offered a clarification after drawing flak from several Opposition parties. Addressing an event in Mumbai in the morning, Naidu said seeking loan waivers had become a “fashion” now but it was not the final solution and should be considered in extreme situations.
As many Opposition parties mounted attack on him, he later told reporters in Delhi that he was referring to the “fashion of political parties” competing with each other to ask for debt relief. “Today, it is the fashion of political parties to ask for loan waiver. When I was talking in Mumbai (earlier today), I was referring to the approach of political parties which are competing with each other, asking for waiver of loans,” he clarified.
His comments attracted criticism from the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party, the CPI(M), the CPI and the Samajwadi Party (SP). Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “We condemn the comments in the strongest term. The plight of farmers is such that they are on the verge of committing suicide every day and such a senior leader is terming it as a fashion, it is a shame for the BJP.”
He said it was “never expected” that the BJP would make “such a joke of farmers’ suicide”. Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar said the comments shows the “attitude” of the BJP towards the plight of farmers. “The real face of BJP has come out in front of public. This (loan waive) is not a fashion but obligation of the nation to the farmers,” he said.
While AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal said the comment exposed his bias towards the rich, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury asked if the government would now term farmer suicides “fashionable”. “Will this govt now say that Farmer suicides are also fashionable? We need to do more than loan waivers for our farmers, not mock at them. (sic),” Yechury tweeted.
Kejriwal said, “You don’t see a fashion in it when you waive loans of the rich. But when it comes to waiving farmers’ loans, you see it as a fashion. “This is not right. You waive a particular individual’s loan, but not that of crores of farmers. This shows the kind of politics you engage in.”
CPI national secretary D Raja termed the comments as “insensitive” and that too coming from a senior minister in the government. “If farm loan waiver was a fashion, then it was the fashion of none other then BJP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who announced loan waiver, which was followed by other BJP states,” he said.
SP spokesperson Ghanshyam Tiwari termed the comments as “joke on the people of this country”. Naidu said the political parties should focus on “long- term solutions” such as improving infrastructure, rural roads, assured power supply, provisions of cold storage and godowns and providing affordable and timely cheap credit to farmers, besides providing market facilities for their produce.
“We have to take care for these measures. We have not done it in so many years after Independence,” he said. Naidu said political parties should focus on bringing in structural policy changes, instead of adopting short-term measures such as loan waiver. Listing out various initiatives, he said the Modi government had taken a number of steps to improve the situation of farmers and referred to Comprehensive Crop Insurance Scheme, Soil Health Card and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana. Naidu said it was “surprising” that political parties which were in power for years and “did nothing” for farmers, are trying to blame this government for the farmers’ plight.