Mumbai: In a major embarrassment to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state and at the Centre, a party MP from Maharashtra has mocked the serious issue of farmers' suicide saying the rise in number suicide by farmers is not because of 'hunger and unemployment but due to fashion and trend'.
"Not all farmers' suicides happen due to unemployment and starvation. A fashion is going on. A trend is on," Gopal Shetty, BJP MP from North Mumbai, said.
The remark by Shetty came at a time when the state is reeling under an agrarian crisis with 124 farmers committing suicide since January this year.
"If Maharashtra government is giving 5 lakh rupees as compensation, then some other government in neighbouring state is giving seven lakh," he said, adding that "there's a competition in these people in giving money (compensation) to farmers".
Shetty's statement comes just ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally in Madhya Pradesh today where he will highlight the government's initiatives for the development of the agriculture sector and welfare of the agriculturists.
Condemning the comments, Congress said the 'insensitive remarks by Shetty show BJP's insensitivity towards farmers'.
"At a time when Maharashtra is undergoing its worst-ever agrarian crisis, Shetty's remarks show how insensitive he and his party are towards thousands of farmers who have committed suicide due to debt and crop failure," Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam said.
Notably, the state government had two days back informed the Bombay High Court that 124 farmers have committed suicide in the state since January this year.
The High Court had asked the Centre what kind of assistance it provides to the state to deal with the grim agrarian crisis. Observing that this was a serious issue, a bench headed by Justice Naresh Patil had asked the Additional Solicitor General to inform the High Court whether the Centre can chip in to provide schemes and financial help to the state to tide over the crisis.
Advocate General Srihari Aney had informed the bench that 124 farmers have taken their lives in the past one-and-half month, of whom 20 cases were reported from Osmanabad alone.
The AG said factors such as crop failure due to scanty rainfall, meagre water supply for drinking and growing crops, insufficient capacity to repay loans and pressure from banks and money lenders were the causes that drove the farmers to commit suicide.
With PTI Inputs