New Delhi: In his first speech in 17th Lok Sabha, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday highlighted the plight of the farmers and termed their condition in the country as ‘terrible’. Speaking during the Zero Hour in Lok Sabha, Gandhi raised the issue of farmers’ suicide in Kerala, particularly in his constituency Wayanad. “There is a terrible situation of farmers in the country. I urge the prime minister to ameliorate problems of farmers in the country,” he said.

Furthermore, he accused the Centre of ‘double standards’ against farmers and claimed that the Union Budget 2019 did not have much to offer for the agriculture sector. He added,”It hurts me to inform this house that just yesterday, a farmer in Wayanad committed suicide due to his crushing debt. In Wayanad alone bank notices non-payment of loans have been given to almost 8,000 farmers. They are facing the theat of immediate eviction. Their properties are attached against bank loan which is resulting in spate of farmer’s suicide.”

Gandhi also claimed that 18 farmers have commited suicide in Kerala since the bank began recovery procedure one and half year ago.

Countering Gandhi, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who was also present in the House, said that the number of farmer suicides has declined in the last five years and people who ran the government for decades were responsible for their (farmers) present plight. Singh said most suicides by farmers took place before the BJP-led government came to power. He also said following efforts of the Modi government, the income of farmers increased by 20-25 per cent.

“As far as farmers’ condition is concerned, it did not happen in only four-five years. People who ran the government for decades are responsible for the condition of farmers,” Defence Minister stated.

He asserted that several efforts were being made to double the income of farmers and asserted that their condition had improved since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister.”I firmly say that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) increased by this government was never ever increased by any previous governments in the history of free India,” he added.