Opposition parties on Friday lambasted the government for its “insensitivity” towards farmers after it picked on a reference to “love affairs” being one of the reasons for farmer suicides in the Agriculture Ministry’s reply to Parliamentary question.
In a written reply to a question asking if the “lack of support to poor and small farmers by way of greater inputs and better support price for their produce” was the main reason for rising suicides, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said: “According to NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), causes of suicides include family problems, illness, drug abuse/addiction, unemployment, property dispute, professional/career problems, love affairs, barrenness/impotency, cancellation/non- settlement of marriage, dowry dispute, fall in social reputation and unknown causes.”
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The Opposition targeted the government over the reference to “love affairs” calling it “irresponsible” and “ridiculous”.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should ask his ministers to visit the houses of the farmers to see what was going on.
Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal sought an apology from the minister.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury claimed that distress suicides in the last year had gone up by 26 per cent and said that the government was trying to divert attention from the actual reasons behind suicides.
CPI leader D Raja said the reply shows “callousness” of the government towards the issue of farmer suicide, which takes place because of the “unprecedented debt crisis” faced by them and the government should take steps to come to their relief.
Repeated insistence by the minister that the reply was being misunderstood made no difference to the protesting members. By the end of the day, the Agriculture Ministry had to put out a clarification saying it considered “the issue of suicide by farmers with great sensitivity and deals with all the seriousness it deserves.” It also mentioned all that the government was doing to improve the economic condition of the farmers.
“The government is extremely concerned about the issue of farmers’ suicide and has rolled out large number of programmes that will go to reduce the cost of cultivation and simultaneously increase the per-hectare yield,” it said.