The country’s farmers are in a “bad condition”, they are “dying” after cultivating rice and wheat; sugar, rice, wheat and pulses are in surplus and so they are not fetching the right price (for farmers). This was Union minister Nitin Gadkari speaking on the state of the farmers in India now, while advocating a shift to agriculture product-based biofuels in the country.
“Pehla priority tribal aur agriculture ko do kyunki ab chawal aur gehun paida karke mar gaye,” Gadkari said at an event to ink an MoU between Indian Highways Management Company Limited and oil marketing companies on Monday, with Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on the dais.
Gadkari was telling Pradhan that biofuels derived out of agriculture products should be given large-scale encouragement for the sake of farmers and tribals. His comments about farmers in India came in this context.
“Humaare Mumbai mein bartan manjne ke raakh 18 rupaye kilo hai aur chawal ki kimat 14 rupaye kilo hai (In Mumbai the ash used to wash dishes is sold for Rs 18 a kg while rice is for Rs 14 a kilo). Pure kisaano ki haalat kharab hai,” Gadkari said.
Farmers have been on mass protest in various parts of the country over prices and other issues, including in Gadkari’s home state of Maharashtra recently. The Opposition Congress and other parties have been highlighting “farm distress” and “low MSP” to hit out at the Modi government. The BJD will be at a “sit-in dharna” in Delhi demanding increase in MSP of paddy on Tuesday.
Gadkari said the problem was linked with surplus yield. “Ab koi bhi cheez surplus… sugar surplus, pulses surplus, wheat surplus aur price abhi mushkil se hum….,” he said.
Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said the PM was doing well to tackle this problem. “Pradhan Mantri ji ne itna achha kiya, hum dene ki koshish kar rahe hain (PM has done so well, we are trying to give the farmers better price),” he said.
He added that farmers in Maharashtra have thrown onion yield after their prices dropped to 50 paise a kilo for farmers.
Gadkari’s comments on farm distress come at a time when, BJP sources say, he ended up embarrassing the party by praising Indira Gandhi for her “mettle”. The minister also courted controversy last month when he said that the party leadership must take responsibility for defeat in elections, following the BJP’s reverses in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. In this backdrop, Sanjay Raut of BJP ally Shiv Sena said on Sunday that Gadkari was “waiting for a fractured mandate” in 2019.
Gadkari had last month tweeted saying his comments were “twisted out of context” and that it was part of a conspiracy to “drive a wedge between him and the party leadership”.