Voices Friday, July 31, 2015 - 05:30

 

Over 100 farmers have killed themselves in Karnataka since April this year, and while Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi is hopping all over the place and even some southern states to deal with people’s problems, he does not appear to have found the time to meet with farmers in Karnataka.

On Friday, the Congress Vice President addressed the protesting students at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune.

He visited the drought-affected regions of Andhra Pradesh, interacted with students, farmers, weavers, MNREGA workers last week. On his return from Tamil Nadu, Gandhi made a quick stop in Bengaluru where he met with party leaders and discussed issues of local governance and also the political situation. But other than the quick stopover, Rahul Gandhi appears to have skipped the state altogether.

Despite a furore in the Assembly session held in Belagavi district earlier this month, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah visited the families of some of the farmers on July 19, a good two months after deaths first began to be reported in April. By then, between 60 and100 farmers had killed themselves.

Read: Why sugarcane farmer Ninge Gowda set his field on fire and jumped into his own pyre

Typically with the Congress, party is always in disarray. The current situation is no different. Neither its senior national leadership nor the state unit appears to have any idea on how to respond to the present crisis.

A day before Siddaramaiah visited the families, former chief minister and union minister S M Krishna, a Vokkaliga, beat him to it. So did other Vokkaliga leaders from the BJP and JD (S).

Krishna and all the other leaders including Ramya of the Congress gave financial assistance to families of the deceased farmers in their personal capacity. Siddaramaiah too did the same on behalf of the party.

Read: Nauseating Karnataka politicians turn up to give money when farmers kill themselves

Some days ago, party chief Sonia Gandhi sought a report from former chief minister S M Krishna in an unusual move that has not gone unnoticed. This looks even worse when one considers that it would have been better if the state unit of the party had submitted a report to the high command.

When he was in Bengaluru last week, Gandhi had said that he wished to meet farmers and the families of those who had committed suicide, but nothing concrete had materialized so far. The party has said that the visit is scheduled for August.

Even if by some miracle the Congress leadership in the state resolves its differences, little is likely to change for the farmers on the ground as the structural problems that brought about the crisis continue to remain untouched.

Rahul Gandhi has always spoken about the welfare of farmers and projected himself as the “new age” politician'. But if is serious about this image, he should go listen to the farmers, and stop skirting around the issue. Better than anybody else, perhaps, farmers understand why they are in this position and it’s an ugly picture of a scenic landscape.

Next, he should go back and take a look at the time these suicides began to appear – the mid-1990s – and see what changes were made in economic policy then. Turns out, it was Manmohan Singh who was the finance minister then.

Will he continue to pay lip service to farmers or make the effort to get his party’s government to act on issues that the state government can tackle at its level?

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