Nagpur: Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today kept up his attacks on the Narendra Modi government, saying that farmers and labourers across the country were being ignored and left to fend for themselves despite the severe agrarian crisis caused by the recent unseasonal rains and hailstorms.
“There is a feeling of abandonment here. That is the problem,” he told journalists after undertaking a 15-km “padayatra” in Amravati district of Maharashtra.
Mr Gandhi, 44, met several distraught farmers and their families during the trip and discussed with them the difficulties being faced by them and possible solutions.
“My interaction with farmers was very disturbing. I have been to Vidharba earlier, but I have never seen a situation like this,” he said.
“When someone is in pain or is hurt, the government’s role is to hold their hand and comfort them. The farmers and labourers here feel the government has completely abandoned them,” he said.
Mr Gandhi said the biggest issue facing the farmers he had talked to was indebtedness. “Wherever we went, farmers told us that their loans should be waived off,” he said.
He said the second major problem, both in Maharashtra and Punjab, which he had visited two days ago, and the rest of the country was that farmers were not getting the minimum support price.
He also said farmers were upset that they were no longer getting bonuses for their crops.
“Farmers feel they haven’t received any help from the government. The Congress party will try to help the farmers. The government is ignoring the farmers and labourers across the country and people are going through a lot of pain,” he said.
He said that, a few days ago, the Union Agriculture Minister had said there had been only three cases of suicide in Maharashtra. He also referred to the reported statement of a Haryana Minister that farmers who commit suicide were cowards.
“I came to Maharashtra to tell the farmers that they should not lose hope and we are with them in this fight and we will fight for them. This government is for select capitalists and is not for farmers, labourers, the poor or small businessmen,” he said.
Mr Gandhi, who had visited the grain markets of Punjab on Tuesday to see for himself the woes of farmers, reached Nagpur late last night by a flight from Delhi. He travelled from there to Amravati this morning and began his 15-km march.
He was accorded an enthusiastic welcome by hundreds of workers of his party, including women, ouside the airport last night. Security personnel had a tough time as the activists jostled with each other to greet Mr Gandhi and get a closer glimpse of him.
Mr Gandhi accepted garlands and bouquets from the Congress leaders before driving to the state government guest house in Nagpur, where he spent the night, before leaving for Amravati, about 160 km away.
The “padyatra” in Vidarbha, where many farmers have committed sucide in the last few years, was part of Mr Gandhi’s efforts to reach out to farmers in distress across the country.
Yesterday, Mr Gandhi had raised the issue of the agrarian crisis in the Lok Sabha again and hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him whether the farmers were not part of his “Make in India” initiative.
Stressing that farmers had “Made in India” already and helped to lay the foundations of a strong India by feeding its people, he urged Mr Modi to take some time off to visit Punjab and other states to see for himself their plight.
Mr Gandhi has been espousing the cause of farmers in distress and also leading his party’s protest against the contentious Land Acquisition Bill as part of a larger effort to rebuild his party after it suffered its worst ever electoral defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress has been accusing the Modi government of working for industrialists and ignoring farmers.