Clad in a white kurta and blue jeans, Gandhi arrived in this town in Haryana's Sonipat district, 65 km from Delhi, Monday afternoon to meet nearly 400 farmers who had gathered for the interaction at a 'chaupal'. The farmers included a small group of women also. "What I learnt here, I have not learnt from bureaucrats earlier," Gandhi told the gathering after listening to their problems.
He said he was aware that children of many farmers did not want to take to agriculture. "Our (Congress) politics is one to give you a choice. Our politics is not to give you orders, like the BJP does. We are creating a manufacturing corridor," he said. "Your children will get a choice of farming or employment. We will give you options. Whether you want to take it or not, depends on you," he added.
"We want to empower you by making you part of the decision-making for the agriculture sector," Gandhi said.
Flaying wrong policies of governments in Uttar Pradesh for ignoring farmers, Gandhi said the Formula One race track was built on agricultural land. "The Formula One track is used once a year. You have seen how it is being utilised. Perhaps it will shut down in 2-3 years. Land of farmers was taken away by telling them that they will see cars racing," Gandhi said, in a reference to the track set up by the Mayawati government near Greater Noida.
Taking a dig at the Bharatiya Janata Party, Gandhi said farmers in Gujarat working in Kutch region were facing "insider" and "outsider" tags and were forced to leave the land they have been cultivating for decades. "For Congress, there is nothing like insider and outsider. But BJP differentiates between them," he said.
Punjab-based farmer Bhupinder Singh Mann said farming was fast becoming non-profitable and the government needed to bring schemes to help them so that they could sustain themselves properly. Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh conducted the proceedings at the interaction, while Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and other leaders sat with the audience.
At times, Ramesh had a tough time controlling the farmers who seemed excited to ask questions.
A woman farmer, Krishna Yadav said: "The government should help women farmers as they have to face a lot of hardship in this field. There should be special schemes for them." The interaction was organised to incorporate issues related to interests of farmers in the national manifesto of the Congress for the general elections.
Gandhi also laid the foundation stone of an international fruit and vegetable terminal market at Ganaur.