New Delh(PTI): Hitting back at Congress after Rahul Gandhi's barbs, government on Monday said the party was trying to bat for the farmers' interests after "looting" them for 10 years as it insisted that it was committed to provide relief those in distress.
Members from Congress and SP staged a walkout even as Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh rejected the charge that the government was pro-industrialists, saying the Opposition party is visualising what it wants to see with "coloured glasses". Replying to a debate on agrarian situation in the country, Singh said the government had relaxed norms for compensation to farmers hit by the recent unseasonal rains and hailstorm which had affected 93.81 lakh hectares of farm land as per the latest reports.
"People who looted the farmers, they are now trying to stand for farmers' interest," Singh said that the NDA government will not allow the farmers to suffer and would adequately compensate them for losses. "People who are talking for farmers now they are wearing coloured glasses. They had mortgaged the country to the corporates. Now they are accusing us of being pro-corporate. If Atal Pension Yojana for corporates?," Singh said.
Earlier, countering the opposition, Parliamentary Affairs Minister said the government is committed to the interests of the farmers, poor people and rural people and told Congress to "have patience for five years". He specifically sought to respond to the issues raised by Rahul Gandhi. "Rahul babu, you (Congress party) were in power for 50 years and we have been in power only 9-10 months," Naidu said, as he listed out various measures taken by the government to help farmers, especially those affected by unseasonal rain and hailstorms.
The counter attack came after Gandhi targeted the the government over the problems being faced by farmers, saying the NDA government had "failed" them. In his first speech in the Budget Session, the Congress Vice President said the government was "ignoring" the farming community and favouring the industrialists and rich people, which was a "blunder" as the farmers will 'harm" BJP in future.
The Agriculture Minister, while responding to Rahul's attack, took a dig at his prolonged absence from public scene as he remarked, "We welcome you... you have returned from a long foreign trip". Seeking to make a distinction of the condition of farmers during previous UPA tenure and the current NDA rule, he said, "Yeh kalyug hai, yahan paap koi aur karta hai, prayaschit kisi aur ko karna padhta hai (this is kalyug, here sin is committed by someone else and penance is to be done by someone else)." Talking about the damage caused by the recent rains and hailstorm, Singh said while the initial estimates suggested that overall affected area was 180 lakh hectares, subsequent figures from states said it was 106 lakh hectare.
"Now after recent survey of states, it was found that 93.81 lakh hectare has been affected. This has been found out based on the information provided by the states," he said. He, however, immediately added that this was not the final figure which will be available only after reports are received from all the states. Earlier, Congress said the government had given different figures about the damaged land mass, like 180 lakh hectares, 106 lakh hectares, 80 lakh hectares and 93 lakh hectares.
Kharge and other Congress leaders wanted to know which figure was correct. Referring to incidents of farmer suicide, Singh said so far he has received reports from eight states, including Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala. "No farmer suicide took place in seven states. In Maharashtra three farmers committed suicide. If farmers are committing suicide in the country it is a matter of shame," Singh said.
The Prime Minister has said that farmers will be entitled for compensation even if five acre farm land has been affected, he said, adding excessive rainfall and untimely rains would be considered as natural calamity.
Insisting that the government is keenly addressing the problem, the Agriculture Minister said a crop insurance scheme will be launched from this fiscal on pilot basis for compensating farmers for losses on account of production. It will be called 'Income Insurance Scheme', he said, adding states are on board on this proposal. "By 2017, we will also give soil health card to all the farmers," he said.
Asserting that the government will do everything possible to help the farmers, Singh said Unions Ministers like Nitin Gadkari, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh visited various states to assess the losses of account of seasonal rainfall. "Even if the opposition does not count these visits, farmers will remember this effort of the government," he said.
Targeting the erstwhile Congress government in Maharashtra, Singh said while about Rs 70,000 crore has been spent on irrigation projects in the state in the past 10 years, only 16 per cent farm land is irrigated.
He said the credit flow to farm sector will increase to Rs 8.50 lakh crore in the current fiscal, from Rs 8 lakh crore in 2014-15. A dissatisfied Opposition, including Congress and SP, staged a walkout from the House as they said the Minister's reply lacked content.
"They (NDA) have given 3-4 estimates of crop loss area. He (Singh) has not said how much compensation he would give to farmers, how much he would provide from the natural calamity fund, he is deviating from the issue," Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said.
SP member Dharmendra Yadav, while staging the walkout, chanted slogans like "Kisan virodhi sarkar, hai hai (down with anti-farmer government)". After the Congress members left the House, the Agriculture Minister said "this is Hindustan and not Italy", apparently referring to the native place of Congress President Sonia Gandhi.