Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that the Congress and its allies were losing sleep as his government was taking many initiatives to improve the status of farmers across the country.
Addressing a rally of farmers and farm labourers in this south-western town of Punjab, Modi said: “The Congress is losing sleep over farmers getting their dues from our government. Congress sat on all demands of farmers for years. They (Congress and its allies) are unable to comprehend what is happening now. They cannot accept the fact that the farmers of this country will get good sleep now.”
Farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan participated in the rally in the town, which lies close to the border of the three states.
“Our government is trying to restore the respect given to farmers and soldiers. We have increased the farmers’ income by 1.5 times. We will try to double it by 2022,” the Prime Minister said.
The PM referred to the recent hike in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of kharif crops and said the hike ranged from Rs 200 to Rs 1,800 per quintal for various crops. He blamed the Congress rule for the misery of farmers in the country, saying the Congress governments were working only for the benefit of one family.
“Congress has always cheated farmers. Farmers have suffered for many decades as the party that ruled the country for most part of the past 70 years did nothing for them. The Congress has tried to appease only one family,” Modi said.
The PM listed his government’s various initiatives such as crop insurance, soil health cards, hike in MSP, availability of urea and other farming inputs, ensuring availability of seeds and providing marketing facilities for selling produce. “We are giving importance to organic, dairy and fish farming to increase farmers’ income. We have made a provision to curb stubble burning. I appeal to all farmers not to burn the crop residue,” Modi said.
Earlier, farmers associated with various organisations held a protest and showed black flags as the PM arrived for the rally. Punjab Police and security agencies detained a few protesters and stopped the others at a distance from the rally venue.
Tight security arrangements were made for the “thanksgiving rally” organised by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to mark the “biggest MSP hike in paddy” announced last week. SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal has termed the hike “unprecedented”.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said he was “disappointed” over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “failure” to address any of the major concerns of the farmers at his Malout rally earlier in the day.
“The distressed farmers who had gathered to hear Modi found no succour for their problems in his long speech, which was high on fluff and short of substance,” Amarinder Singh said in a statement here.
Modi had visited Malout town, around 275 km from Chandigarh, to address a “thanksgiving rally” organised by BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal in the wake of the “biggest hike in MSP for paddy” announced by the Modi government last week.
The Chief Minister said he was shocked over the fact that the Prime Minister failed to even mention the farmer suicides and debts or even the Swaminathan committee’s report.
Amarinder Singh, who heads the Congress government in agrarian Punjab, said the rally turned out to be a “sorry spectacle for the farmers who had braved sweltering heat in the hope of some concrete announcements from the Prime Minister”.
“Instead, Modi’s speech turned out to be an insipid affair, focused on tom-tomming his government’s four-year rule, which has been a complete failure on all counts,” Amarinder Singh said.
The Chief Minister said it was unfortunate that Modi had let go of a major opportunity to address the serious concerns of the farming community.
“If he really wanted to thank the Punjab farmers for contributing to the nation’s Green Revolution and for continuing to feed millions of Indians day after day, Modi should have come out with some concrete announcements on the critical issues of farm loan waiver and total implementation of the Swaminathan report,” Amarinder Singh said.
“In his zeal to criticize the Congress, Modi conveniently forgot that it was my party (Congress) that was responsible for ushering in the Green Revolution and thus ensuring the country’s food security. He should have had the decency to at least acknowledge the Congress for waiving farmer loans while his own government had completely failed to provide them relief from massive debts,” the Chief Minister added.
Amarinder Singh also flayed the Akali Dal for “betraying” Punjab by letting Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to participate in the rally in Muktsar district.
“Considering Khattar’s stand on the SYL (Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal) and Punjab waters, the Akalis should not have let him be a part of the rally in the first place, or should have used the opportunity to corner him over these important issues which are vital to the interest of Punjab and its farmers,” Amarinder Singh said.