Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and his Punjab counterpart Prakash Singh Badal on Monday came down heavily on the Congress-led UPA government for neglecting the farmers.
They were speaking at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Agriculture Summit, which is being projected as the first event of its kind in the country, in Gandhinagar.
Taking a dig at the UPA’s farm loan waiver scheme, Modi, who is shortly expected to be anointed as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, said that schemes are announced for farm loans before the elections, but the need is to find ways to prevent the farmer from becoming indebted.
“In 20 years, 2.70 lakh farmers have committed suicide. These are shocking numbers of farmer suicides, and are linked directly to debt. Less than 30% of the total farmers get loans from banks, and the remaining have to take debts from money-lenders,” he said, and called for simplifying the process to give farm loans.
The Gujarat CM also said that 2,500 farmers are leaving farming every day and opting for other fields.
“Just imagine what the situation will be in the coming days if this continues,” he said, before talking about a host of farmer-friendly initiatives taken by the Gujarat government.
In his address, that saw him asking Modi to move beyond Gujarat, the Punjab CM too said that farmers were being ignored, and was critical of the manner in which the Central government decides the minimum support prices (MSPs) for farm produce.
“The cost of farming has gone up, but we don’t know whether the Centre takes these into consideration while fixing the MSPs. The chief ministers are not consulted in fixing the prices. Neither I, nor Modiji can do anything about it,” he said, demanding that the pricing should be independent.
“When there was a crisis in agriculture, the farmers were told to grow paddy. Now that the farmer is in crisis, shouldn’t the government come to his help?” the Punjab CM questioned. He accused the central government of showing step-motherly treatment towards farmers.
Badal too said that the farmers are under huge debts. He said that farmers in Punjab alone have a debt of more than Rs30,000 crore.