Ahmednagar: It is a Marie Antoinette moment in times of drought. On being told that her French subjects had no bread, the bride of France’s King Louis XVI supposedly said, “Let them eat cake.” Ram Shinde, the State minister for Other Backward Classes, had a similar ingenious solution to the woes of drought-hit farmers: He told them to shift their cattle to a relative’s place, where water and fodder were available. Incidentally, Shinde also holds the water conservation portfolio.
When farmers in Ahmednagar district met Shinde, they had a simple demand. They urged him to make arrangements to provide fodder and water for their cattle. Instead of advising the farmers on managing and sustaining livestock during drought and creating fodder banks or fodder parks, Shinde went ahead and asked them to take the help of relatives. “Chara dena shakya nahi, tumhi tumche gura natevaikan kade pathva.” (We cannot provide fodder, send your cattle away to the house of relatives).That was akin to saying that if the child does not stop crying, send him to the hostel.
Opposition Congress dubbed his statement as insensitive but Shinde defended himself, saying there was nothing new in what he had suggested. “It is a routine practise in our area,’’ he explained. What added to the discomfort of the distressed farmers was that the Minister chose to put his foot in the mouth in front of officials of central government who were taking stock of the drought situation.
Once the video went viral, Shinde went into abject denial. “This video is distorted. I have not said this, at all. Fodder is available in the district and until now there have no demands for fodder camps. This farmer was requesting for setting up of a fodder camp in the city, which is not possible”.
Incidentally, Shinde comes from the family of Ahilyabai Holkar, the queen who is said to have asked her administration to dig wells in order to mitigate the suffering of farmers in parched times. Wells dug up in the 18th century can still be seen 300 years later. Leader of the Opposition Dhananjay Munde slammed Shinde over his outrageous remarks. “It is unfortunate that a BJP minister is giving such shameful advice to farmers when they are facing an acute crisis.”