Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh made a bizarre comment in Rajya Sabha on Friday reasoning the spate of farmers' suicide in the country. The BJP leader said these suicides were a result of "love affairs" and "impotency".
With more than 1,400 farmers' suicide being reported in the country since the beginning of 2015, a question was raised in the upper house of Parliament on the reasons behind these deaths.
In a written response, Singh said, "According to the National Crime Records Bureau, causes of (farmer) suicides include family problems, illness, drugs... dowry, love affairs and impotency," according to reports.
Singh might be referring to some causes mentioned in the NCRB's latest report on farmer suicides in 2014, in which it has listed several cases due to "extra marital affairs", "non-settlement of marriage", and "drug addiction and alcohol addiction".
Singh, however, justified his statement through a tweet, saying he was only quoting the NCRB figures.
We only consider the statistics given by the national crime data: Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh pic.twitter.com/8fblYIeNXq
— ANI (@ANI_news) July 24, 2015
Rahul advises PM to visit farmers' houses with ministers
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was quick to attack the BJP government over the agriculture minister's statement in Rajya Sabha.
"I advice the PM to call his Ministers and ask them to visit farmers' houses and see what's going on," Gandhi said, according to ANI.
However, what Singh said was no different from the UPA government's stand on the issue. Ironically, a similar statement was made by the then Minister of State for Agriculture Tariq Anwar in 2013. As the MoS agriculture, the NCP leader had read out a similar statement in Rajya Sabha, according to this report.
Anwar had then said that according to NCRB, "causes of suicides include family problems, illness, drug abuse, unemployment, property dispute, bankruptcy or sudden change in economic status, poverty, professional problem, love affairs, impotency, non-settlement of marriage, dowry dispute, fall in social reputation etc".
Faux Pas for BJP?
The BJP leader's statement comes just months after another party leader and Haryana Agriculture Minister OP Dhankar called farmers committing suicides as "cowards".
"Suicide is a crime. According to Indian law, suicide is a crime. A person who commits suicide runs away from his responsibilities. Such people are cowards and the government cannot stand by such cowards or criminals," Dhankar had said in April this year.
The BJP-led NDA government has already been facing the heat over its revised land acquisition bill and the Union agriculture minister's controversial statement is likely to give fresh ammunition to the Opposition to attack an already beleaguered Modi government.
Farmer suicides in 2014
The NCRB said in its report that 5,650 farmers committed suicide in 2014 with bankruptcy and indebtedness being the biggest cause for the deaths (1,163 deaths).
Family problems were the second biggest cause for farmer suicides (1,135 deaths). The NCRB mentioned that family problems exclude "Marriage related issues".
As many as 250 farmer suicides were related to drug abuse, while 121 were issues concerning marriage, of which five were related to extramarital affairs.