'They would have died even while staying back home': Haryana minister on farmers' protest deaths

In a controversial remark over farmers' death at various protest sites, Haryana Agriculture Minister J P Dalal on Saturday said they would have died even if they had stayed back home.

Dalal made the remark in Haryana's Bhiwani in response to a reporter's query over the "death of 200 farmers".

"Would not they have died if they were at home? Had they been at their homes, they would have died there also. Out of one to two lakh, do 200 people not die in six months? Someone is dying of a heart attack and someone after falling ill... They died of their own will. I have my deepest sympathies for them," Dalal said.

Several Punjab and Haryana farmers, participating in farmers' agitation against the Centre's three farm laws at various Delhi border points, have died of different reasons including cardiac arrest.

Hours after making the statement, the Haryana agriculture minister clarified that his statement was "twisted" and "wrong meaning" was given to it. He issued an apology to those who were hurt by his words.

"My statement was twisted and the wrong meaning was given to it. I saw the video on social media. I tender my apologies if somebody was hurt by my statement. As Haryana's Agriculture Minister, I am working for the welfare of the farmers," he said.

Soon after the video of the Haryana Agriculture Minister's remark gone viral on social media, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala slammed Dalal, stating that such a statement can only be made by an "insensitive" person.

"These words can only be used by an insensitive man for agitating 'annadatas'," said Surjewala in a tweet.

Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja too slammed Dalal for his statement. "This reaction and laughter of the Haryana agriculture minister on the sacrifice of our farmer brothers are very sad," she said in a tweet.

Thousands of farmers have been protesting since late November at Delhi borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, demanding a rollback of the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

The protesting farmers have been expressing fear that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporate houses. The Centre, however, has been insisting that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture.

(With inputs from ANI and PTI)

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