Rahul Gandhi raises farmer death in Wayanad
Rahul Gandhi on Thursday spoke for the first time in the new Lok Sabha, flagging the “terrible plight” of farmers in his constituency Wayanad and accusing the Narendra Modi government of favouring “rich businessmen” over them.
“Farmers are suffering throughout the country. I would like to draw the attention of the government to the terrible plight of farmers in Kerala,” Rahul said during zero hour.
He flagged the suicide by one farmer, Enkittan, “just yesterday” because of “crushing debt”. In Wayanad alone, 8,000 farmers have been served bank notices for their loans and their properties are being attached, he said, adding that this was the trigger for a spate of suicides.
“Meanwhile, in the last five years, the BJP government gave a Rs 4.3 lakh-crore tax concession and waived Rs 5.5 lakh crore for rich businessmen,” Rahul said. “Why this shameful double standard? Why does the government act as if our farmers are inferior to the rich?” the Congress leader asked.
The budget had no concrete step to provide relief to farmers, he said, reading out from an approved text. Texts of zero hour mentions are approved by the Speaker’s office and members cannot give an extempore speech. Rahul was given an “out of turn” preference by Speaker Om Birla to raise his issue first during zero hour.
Rahul’s brief mention invited a sharp rebuttal from defence minister and Lok Sabha deputy leader Rajnath Singh.
“The plight of the farmers did not worsen in the last 5 years. Those who ruled for decades are responsible…,” Rajnath said, crediting Prime Minister Narendra Modi with taking steps like no other government to improve the condition of farmers.
Early this month, Sonia Gandhi had spoken in zero hour to accuse the central government of selling the country’s assets to private players, referring to the railways’ move to corporatise the coach factory in her constituency Rae Bareli. On Thursday she was seated in the front row as Rahul spoke, standing next to her.
BJP members were mostly quiet when Rahul spoke but voices of protest were heard when he accused the Modi government of favouring the rich.
Rahul urged the central government to direct the Reserve Bank of India to consider the moratorium declared by the Kerala government on repayment of farm loans till December 31. The Centre was refusing to direct the RBI to consider this moratorium and implement it, he said.
Finally, he reminded Modi of promises to farmers made in 2014 that remained unfulfilled. “The Prime Minister also made certain commitments five years ago to the farmers of this country on prices, on farm loans and on other issues…. So I would request the government of India to fulfil these commitments,” Rahul said.
Neither Modi nor home minister Amit Shah were present in the House, but Rajnath was present and appeared prepared for the rebuttal.