Land bill delayed, but Modi govt won't take onus of farmer suicides
24 April 2015
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has delayed a bill that will make it easier for industry to buy farmland amidst rising rural anger over neglect of distressed farmers who are often forced to the extremes by successive crop failures.
And, amidst a blame game that escalated with the death of a farmer at an AAP rally in New Delhi, who hanged himself from a tree on which he was perched, AAP leader has accepted moral responsibility for not being vigilant despite suicide threats by Gajendra Singh, a farmer from Rajasthan.
Both the central government and the Delhi police are accusing the Aam Aadmi Party of having instigated the farmer to commit suicide as Parliament was rocked by opposition protests over Modi government's policy of catering to the corporate lobby at the cost of hapless farmers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi now is seeking a collective solution to the "deep-rooted" agrarian crisis and is not ready to take the onus of farmer suicides.
As the suicide in full public view put focus on the crisis, the Prime Minister expressed "pain" over the suicide by Gajender Singh, a farmer from Dausa in Rajasthan who took his life during the AAP rally in New Delhi.
Reports said the land acquisition bill, a revision to a 2013 land law, would not be brought up until the first week of May.
The land bill is a challenge for the Modi government as it has not many takers even among its own legislators. Modi has used the ordinance route to ease land acquisition laws that required 80 per cent consent from affected land owners, but it needs legislative approval to become law.
Modi has pleaded for political parties to end their finger-pointing over the rural crisis and work together to improve the lives of the villagers.
"The issue of farmers' suicides has been a matter of concern for the whole country," he said. "I also share the pain. We should resolve to find a solution to this problem which is old and widespread."
Yet, he insists the land acquisition bill is for the farmer and it will only benefit the farmer.
More than a dozen debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide in India in recent weeks blaming the BJP government for being slow to respond to the crop damage and falling commodity prices.
Egged on by opposition parties, farmers are also angry about the changes to the land law, which many fear will force them to sell holdings against their will. Wednesday's AAP rally where the Rajasthan farmer committed suicide was also against the changes to the land acquisition bill.
The rural crisis, which is made murkier by the land bill and crop failures and the latest weather forecast of below normal monsoon rains is a major political challenge for Modi's one-year-old government.