Haveri (Karnataka): Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday secured a special relief package from his party-ruled Karnataka government for distressed farmers, reeling under drought, crop failure and a spate of suicides. “The state government has agreed to waive interest on crop loans you took from cooperative banks, increase compensation to families whose farmers committed suicide to Rs.5 lakh from Rs.2 lakh,” Gandhi said at a farmers’ rally at Ranebennur in Haveri district, about 300km from Bengaluru.
Families of farm workers, who committed suicide, would also be paid the compensation. On Gandhi’s insistence, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced at the rally that the state government would bear the education cost of deceased farmers’ children up to post-graduation, pay Rs.2,000 per month to widows of farmers who committed suicide and provide free health insurance to their families under the “Arogya Lakshmi scheme”.
The Congress scion, on a two-day visit to the Congress-ruled state since Friday, met the bereaved families of farmers at Myduru and Gudagur villages in the district and interacted with them.
After addressing the rally, Gandhi held a “padyatra” (march) in protest against the central government’s indifference towards the farmers’ plight in the southern state. “Congress is always with farmers and farm labourers, especially during crisis from drought or floods, as is evident from the special package the state government is offering to provide succour to you and your families,” he said.
Asserting that the party’s government in the southern state was pro-farmer unlike the Narendra Modi government, which is not bothered about the farmers’ plight, Gandhi said the National Democratic Alliance government had no concern or respect for farmers in the country.
“Our party stopped the pro-industry Modi government from amending the Land Acquisition Act brought by our (UPA-2) government in fiscal 2013-14 with the consent of all states and political parties,” he said.
Accusing Modi of neglecting farmers and rural people suffering from deficit monsoon, debt trap from money lenders and crop failures, Gandhi said the prime minister had no time for them, as he (Modi) was busy going overseas almost every month and offering sops to investors for his “Make in India” and “Digital India” projects.
“Though our party has only 44 lawmakers in Parliament (Lok Sabha), we are with millions of farmers and their labour across the country, unlike the NDA government, which is pro-industry and pro-corporates and against rural India,” Gandhi said.
Lauding chief minister Siddaramaiah, who belongs to the Congress party, for listening to farmers’ woes and responding with the relief package, Gandhi said, in contrast, Modi made people listen to his “Man ki Baat” radio programme.
Besides the chief minister, party general secretary Digvijaya Singh, party’s state unit president G. Parameshwara and other state leaders and cabinet ministers were present on the occasion.