Chandigarh: The remark is certainly insensitive and coming from someone who has been the president of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha twice it’s deeply troubling. At a time when the country is in the midst of an agrarian crisis, which has led to a spate of suicides in the farming community, Haryana Agriculture Minister OP Dhankar has triggered a controversy by saying farmers who kill themselves are cowards and criminals. The insensitive remark of the Haryana minister has the opposition up in arms.

“Suicide is a crime as per the Indian laws. The government could not support farmers who commit suicide as they were criminals under the law,” said Dhankar, adding “Those who commit suicide are running away from their responsibilities and leaving their families and children with liabilities.” Ironically, it is the same person who used to condemn the UPA government earlier for not taking care of the farmers in the country who were committing suicide.

OP Dhankar in a file photo. IbnliveOP Dhankar in a file photo. Ibnlive

OP Dhankar in a file photo. Ibnlive

Addressing a press conference in Chandigarh on Tuesday, Dhankar remarked, “Why should the Haryana government help them? The government cannot support those farmers who commit suicide,” he said. His remark has rubbed salt on the wounds of the distressed farmers reeling under adverse weather conditions in North India. In the last one and a half months around 30 farmers in Haryana have died as a result of the damage suffered by their standing crops because of frequent untimely rains and hailstorms.

While seven farmers committed suicide in Haryana, the rest died of shock and trauma arising out of their destroyed crops.

The Agriculture minister made it clear that Haryana government will not help families of those farmers and agricultural labourers who have committed suicide because the administration was not for helping people who indulged in wrong deeds.

BJP government’s Health minister in Haryana, Anil Vij has also criticised the spate of suicides of farmers in the country. “I and the entire Haryana government are with the farmers. The farmers should never resort to such dastardly act as suicide. Haryana government will not neglect its duties and responsibilities towards the farming community,” he said.

Earlier both Dhankar and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had denied reports that any farmer in the state had committed suicide. According to the BJP leaders there could have been other reasons for the farmers taking their lives and not necessarily their failed crops. Dhankar had said the farmers of Haryana were tough and courageous and would not end their lives because of crop damage. “Haryana ka kisan dhadha hai, woh suicide nahi karega (Haryana farmer is tough and he would not commit suicide),” he had said on an earlier occasion.

Leader of Opposition in Haryana, Abhey Singh Chautala hit out at Dhankar’s remarks. “His statement shows that he is not at all a farmer. When any farmer looks at his destroyed crops it seems to him as if he has lost everything in the world. In such a shocked mental state, he even takes the drastic step of committing suicide. How can Dhankar issue such a remark,’’ he wondered.

Talking to Firstpost, Congress leader Pawan Jain condemned Dhankar’s statement. “This is the most insensitive remark by any leader towards the hapless farmers of the country. The distressed farmers who have been ruined because of the inclement weather are being forced to commit suicide, while BJP leaders are making a mockery of them.”

Haryana Congress spokesman, Rann Singh Mann flayed Dhankar’s statement. “This is an insult to the entire farming community in the country. It just proves that the BJP does not like the farmers and all their talk of taking care of farmer’s interest is nothing but a sham. Instead of putting balm on the wounds of the hurt farmers, the BJP is rubbing salt on them,’’ Mann said.

“Only a person who has lost all hopes in life will take such a drastic step. It is the government’s duty and responsibility to help the farmers. Such insensitive remark exposes the real face of the BJP which poses to be the champion of farmers,’’ he added.

Social activist Khushwant Singh from Sonepat district said unseasonal rains and hailstorms this year in different states of North India have ruined crops standing on several thousand acres of land leading to great distress and financial trouble for lakhs of farmers. Many farmers and agricultural labourers have committed suicide while others are burdened with huge loans that they are unable to pay due to crop loss. The government should provide adequate help to them to make them come out of this crisis.

Meanwhile Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, has announced compensation of Rs 1,092 crore to farmers affected by inclement weather conditions in Haryana. The compensation will be disbursed by 15 May. Of the total amount, Rs 720 crore will be provided by the Centre while rest will be provided by the state government, said Khattar.

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Coward farmers remark: Irony is OP Dhankar was BJP’s Kisan Morcha president twice