New Delhi: A day after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi met farmers in Punjab, he made a short intervention in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday and asked the government to provide immediate help to farmers and procure foodgrains lying in wholesale markets.

Gandhi also questioned why the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government was busy in the “Make in India" initiative instead of focusing on farmers. “The government says that we should ‘Make in India’, but are the farmers not involved in Make in India? Is it something else? While the Prime Minister is on the India trip, he should visit Punjab and talk to farmers to understand what is going on," Gandhi said during the question hour.

He added that the government would benefit itself if it assists the farmers. “I have said earlier that if the government helps the farmers, it would benefit them only. The help given to the farmers will not benefit the opposition but the government," he said.

Gandhi made a one-day visit to Punjab’s Sirhind, Gobindgarh and Khanna mandis (agricultural markets) on Tuesday and met farmers to discuss the contentious land acquisition bill and the effect of unseasonal rains on crops. Punjab goes to elections in 2017 and is a priority for the party looking for a political revival.

Replying to Gandhi’s attack, minister for consumer affairs, food and public distribution Ram Vilas Paswan said that the government was in the process of procuring all foodgrains at the minimum support price (MSP). He also counter-attacked Gandhi, asking why the Congress party did not go to meet either the farmers or people affected due to the earthquake in Bihar.

Next stop: Vidarbha

Ratcheting up pressure on farmers’ issues, Rahul Gandhi’s next stop will be Vidarbha in Maharashtra where he will hold a 15-km ‘kisan padyatra’ (farmers’ footmarch) on Thursday as he criss-crosses the country to reach out to the farmers in distress in various states.

The Congress vice-president will commence his footmarch from the Gunji village at 7am on Thursday and end it at Ramgaon. Maharashtra is one of the states that experienced severe agrarian crisis and Amravati division in Vidarbha region has witnessed many farmer suicides this year.

According to the programme released by his office, Rahul will also visit Rajana and Tonglabad villages in Amravati district on Thursday. He will also be visiting a number of districts in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Punjab and Telangana.

(With inputs from PTI)

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