Stirring up a controversy over the death of farmers at various protest sites, Haryana Agriculture Minister JP Dalal said on Saturday that they would have died even if they had stayed back home. Dalal's remark came in response to a query on the death of more than 200 farmers agitating along the borders of Delhi, against the new agriculture laws passed by the Centre.
"Had they been at their homes, they would have died there also, Dalal said. Listen to me, out of one to two lakh, do not 200 people die in six months? Someone is dying of a heart attack and someone after falling ill,'' the minister said.
Hours after his remarks kicked up a storm, Dalal said his statement had been twisted on social media, and “wrong meaning” was attributed to it. “If anybody is hurt by it, I tender my apology,” he said, adding he would continue to work for farmers’ welfare. He added that it is painful if anyone dies.
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala attacked Dalal over his remarks, calling him an insensitive person. "These words can only be used by an insensitive and ruthless person for agitating 'annadatas'. Haryana Agriculture Minister JP Dalal, who first described farmers as pro-Pakistan and China, should be dismissed from the cabinet," Surjewala said in a tweet.
Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja too slammed Dalal for his statement. This reaction and laughter of the Haryana agriculture minister on the sacrifice of our farmer brothers are very sad, she said in a tweet. Punjab Congress leader Raj Kumar Verka also demanded Dalal's ouster from the Haryana Cabinet over his insensitive remarks.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting since late November at Delhi borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, demanding a rollback of the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesting farmers have been expressing fear that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporate houses. The Centre, however, has been insisting that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture.