Petrol, diesel prices could have fuelled farm distress, admits minister

Petrol, diesel prices could have fuelled farm distress, admits minister

Union Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal addresses a press conference in New Delhi on Monday. PTI

After Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has dismissed the farmers' protests as a "legacy issue" of the previous Congress governments.

She, however, admitted that rising petrol and diesel prices could be a factor for the agrarian distress, perhaps the first such admission by a Union minister.

The Modi government has been at the receiving end of farmers' protests across several states demanding better remunerative prices for farm produce, implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations and farm loan waiver.

The agriculture minister's comments that the stir by farmers was a "gimmick" earned him the wrath of the Opposition.

From June 1, farmers' organisations under the banner of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh are on a 'Gaon Bandh' across 22 states, stopping the supply of vegetables, fruit, milk and other items to cities.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to address a farmers' rally in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of the police firing in which seven farmers were killed.

Harsimrat Kaur hit out at Rahul and alleged that the current plight of farmers was mainly due to 70 years of misrule by the Congress party.

"As far as the Congress pointing the finger at someone is concerned, it is the pot calling the kettle black," she told reporters here.

She said that before setting out to transform India, the Congress president should pay attention to Punjab where "five farmers were committing suicide every day".

"Before heading to transform the country, please change small state Punjab so that people have some confidence that you can make a difference," she said.