Highlighting the farmers’ plight a day after his Punjab visit, Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday targetted Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha for his foreign tours and said he should travel to the state to know first hand about the condition of the farming community.
“Again his (PM’s) tour is on the cards. He has come here for sometime. He should visit Punjab and he will know first hand what is happening to farmers,” the Congress Vice President said, triggering uproar as BJP members protested.
Raising the issue of farmers during Zero Hour a day after his visit to mandis in Punjab, Gandhi said he wanted to apprise the House of the pain and problems of the state’s farmers whose produce is lying in mandis and is not being procured by the government.
The refrain of Gandhi was that the NDA government had left the farmer to fend for himself.
Amid protests by BJP members, Gandhi took a swipe at the Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, questioning whether farmers are not contributing to ‘Make in India’ by providing food to the entire country.
“When there was hailstorm, the government did not help. State governmments 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,” he said.
Gandhi accused the government of not procuring the produce of farmers, a charge rubbished by Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan who hit back by suggesting that the Congress leader was trying to become a “martyr by cutting a finger”.
Gandhi said “while farmers in the mandis are crying, the Haryana Agriculture Minister is saying farmers committing suicide are cowards,” he said amid cries of “shame, shame” from the opposition.
Asserting that government is purchasing each and every grain from farmers, Paswan insisted that the government under the leadership of Modi had taken several decisions for the welfare of farmers which had not happened in the past 10 years of the UPA.
Contending that the Prime Minister is not only concerned about the welfare of farmers, Paswan said he has proactively taken several steps to help the farmers hit hard by unseasonal rains and hailstorm.
There was uproar over the issue, leading to adjournment of the House for 10 minutes.
Gandhi had raised the farmers issue on the first day of the second phase of the current session by dubbing the Modi dispensation as ‘suit-boot ki sarkar” and had advised it to crossover to the side of farmers from that of industralists.
The Lok Sabha today saw uproar, with Congress and AAP members storming the Well when Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur, who is a member from Punjab, was allowed by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to speak after Gandhi’s plea for a fair deal to the farmers in the state.
She took objection to Gandhi’s visit to Punjab to assess farmers’ condition, questioning why he had not toured his own constituency Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
Harsimrat Kaur, daughter-in-law of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, also took a swipe at Gandhi questioning where he was when farmers were facing the fury of hailstorm, apparently referring to his 57-day mysterious sabbatical.
Congress members, led by their Leader Mallikarjun Kharge, objected to Harsimrat Kaur being allowed to speak.
Amid the din, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said that Paswan was ready to respond, but if the opposition wanted to politicise the matter then it was a different issue altogether.
Hitting back at Gandhi, Paswan remarked that he was seeking to project himself as a crusader of the farmer’s cause without doing anything much for their welfare.
“Ungli kaatkar shaheed banane chale hain (Trying to become martyr by cutting a finger),” Paswan said to drive home his point.
Rejecting Gandhi’s charge about non-procurement of farm produce in Punjab, the Food Minister said 57 lakh tonnes of grains have been procured from the state’s farmers out of 64 lakh tonnes which had arrived in mandis.
Each and every grain will be procured, he said while noting that the government has extended several relaxations to farmers whose produce has been affected by hailstrom as also unseasonal rains.
The benchmark for lusture in the grain earlier was below one per cent. Now it has been increased between 50 to 90 per cent, Paswan said.
The government has also decided to end the ‘full’ value cut on grains damaged by water. Now the value cut would be either half or one-fourth, he added.
Paswan said the duty on ethnol has been brought down and the import duty on sugar as demanded by cane farmers have been raised from 25 to 40 per cent.
Gandhi also told the government that if it helped the farmers by extending compensation, it will benefit it politically and “not to us”.