Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday questioned the “double standards” of the Union government in giving tax concessions and waivers to the rich while criticising the Budget for not having any “concrete step” to provide relief to farmers in the country.
“In the last five years, the BJP government gave Rs 4.3 lakh crore in tax concession and waived Rs 5.5 lakh crore for rich businessmen. Why is this shameful double standard? Why does the government act as if our farmers are inferior to the rich? I was sad to see that no concrete step was taken in this Budget to provide relief to the farmers,” said Gandhi, raising the issue of “the terrible plight of farmers in Kerala” during zero hour in the Lok Sabha.
“In Wayanad alone, bank notices for non-payment have been given to almost 8,000 farmers. They are facing the threat of immediate eviction under certain Acts. Their properties are attached against their bank loans. This is resulting in a spate of farmers’ suicides. In Kerala, 18 farmers have committed suicide since banks began recovery procedures one and a half years ago,” Rahul said.
The Congress leader said the Union government is refusing to back the Kerala government’s moratorium on repayment of farm loans for all farmers in the state till December 31 by not directing the RBI to consider it. “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… I would request the Government of India to fulfil these commitments,” Rahul said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh shot back, saying that the plight of farmers was not a creation of the last four years and that most suicides occurred before the BJP-led government was voted to power. “The people who ran the government so long are responsible for the situation of farmers,” Singh said, evoking strong protests from the Congress members. Singh said that farmers’ incomes have gone up by 20-25 per cent due to the Modi government’s scheme to give Rs 6,000 to farmers, better minimum support prices, among other reasons.
Soon after Rahul’s speech, Opposition leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury requested Speaker Om Birla for permission to speak on the political developments in Karnataka and Goa. The Speaker turned down the request, drawing sharp reactions from the Opposition members. The Congress, including Congress Parliamentary Party chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, then staged a walkout, joined by members of parties such as the Trinamool Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party.