Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday accused the Congress of using farmers as a vote bank during nearly 70 years of its rule, as the party believed in serving the interest of only ‘one family.’ Mr. Modi, addressing a gathering at the ‘kisan kalyan rally’ in Malout, said the Congress never valued or appreciated the hard work done by the country’s farmers.

“It was due to the indifferent and ignorant attitude of the Congress that even after toiling hard for years, farmers had been living in despair and distress,” said Mr. Modi.

“All through the Congress rule, its focus remained on making ‘one family’ comfortable, while the concerns and problems of farmers were always ignored. They (farmers) were only used and exploited by the Congress as a vote bank and for decades no proper policy was made to serve the interests of the peasantry,” said Mr. Modi. Mr. Modi said the Congress was satisfied with making announcements for farmers which never materialised.

“The Congress is now baffled after we [the Centre] announced the historic rise in the minimum support price of crops. The Congress people are having sleepless nights because they know that they have been exposed before farmers, who are now on the path of progress after the pro-farmer policies adopted by the NDA government,” said Mr. Modi.

Stop burning residue

He expressed concern over pollution caused by stubble burning, while appealing to farmers to refrain from burning the crop residue and instead use machines for clearing it. The government is giving an assistance of 50% to farmers for this, he pointed out.

“To tackle the problem the Centre has allocated over Rs. 50 crore for States including Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi under a scheme. And over half of this amount is focused on Punjab,” he said.

The rally, organised by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the BJP, in the wake of the MSP hike for kharif crops is being seen as an attempt to woo farmers ahead of the general elections due in 2019. Meanwhile, members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Sidhupur) staged a protest against the Prime Minister.

Black flags

Several farmers carrying ‘black flags’ were stopped by the police on Bathinda-Malout road near Fakarsar Theri. The protesters accused the BJP-led Centre of betraying farmers by failing to keep its promise of implementing the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.

“We have been stopped by the police. So we are on a sit-in (dharna) here. We wanted to meet the Prime Minister to convey our concerns,” Bogh Singh Mansa, general secretary of BKU (Ekta Sidhupur) told
The Hindu

“The BJP promised to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission in its election manifesto during the 2014 general polls but after coming to power has backtracked on this. The BJP then promised cost-plus 50% profit to the farmers but the recent announcement of MSP hike is only notional and not based on the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission as being projected by the Centre,” he said.

Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh said the Prime Minister failed to address any of the major concerns of the farmers at the rally. Also, he accused Shiromani Akali Dal of betraying Punjab by allowing the Haryana Chief Minister to be present on the occasion. “The distressed farmers who gathered to hear Mr. Modi found no succour for their problems in his speech, which was high on fluff and short on substance,” said Capt. Amarinder.

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