NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi, who said last week he is no longer serving as Congress president, raised the issue of suicides by farmers in Kerala during his first formal speech in the 17th Lok Sabha on Thursday.
Gandhi accused the Union government of “double standards" against farmers. The Union budget did not have much to offer to the farming community, he said during Zero Hour.
Gandhi’s statement on suicides by farmers is in line with his choice of constituency to represent in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress leader, who lost in his family bastion of Amethi to Union minister Smriti Irani, now represents the Wayanad parliamentary seat in Kerala in the Lower House.
“In Kerala, 18 farmers have committed suicide since banks began the procedure for recovering loans one and a half years ago. The government of Kerala has announced a moratorium on repayment of farm loans for all Kerala farmers till 31 December 2019. However, the government of India is refusing to direct the Reserve Bank of India to consider this moratorium and get it implemented," he said in the House.
“I was sad to see that no concrete step was taken in the (Union) budget to provide relief to farmers," he added.
Gandhi went on to speak on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to farmers, with his comments drawing protests from members of the ruling coalition.
“The condition of the farmers today is because of those who have ruled for years," Union minister Rajnath Singh said in response to Gandhi’s statement, amid protests by Opposition MPs, particularly Congress members.
The government led by Modi has in the last five years taken a number of steps to improve the condition of farmers, including increasing the minimum support price for crops and cash support for farmers, said the defence minister.
Soon after, opposition parties staged a walkout over the political crisis in Karnataka and Goa, but returned soon after to take part in the discussion on grants for railways.