The centre is “lying” and “unwilling to compensate” the families of over 700 farmers who died during the months-long protest against the farm laws, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said Friday evening.
Mr Gandhi slammed the centre for having told Parliament this week (in response to a question he raised in the Lok Sabha) that it had no data on the number of farmers who died during the agitation.
The Agriculture Ministry said it had “no record in the matter and hence the question does not arise”.
In response, Mr Gandhi brandished a list of 403 dead farmers from Congress-ruled Punjab (whose families had been given Rs 5 lakh each by the state) and another list of 200-odd dead farmers from other states, and challenged the centre to, at least now, act on demands for their families to be compensated.
“What the government said (in response to his question) is that they do not have data on those who died during the protests… The truth is they do have details, they are not accepting it,” he told reporters.
“We would like to tell the government we have done some homework for them. We have here a list of 500-odd farmers whose families we (the Punjab government) have compensated with Rs 5 lakh. We have also given jobs to 152 family members and are in the process of giving jobs to others,” he said.
All these details, Mr Gandhi stressed, were available in the public domain. The list, he also said, would be tabled at the next session of Parliament – on Monday.
“The government says it does not have a list… Here it is… we have names, numbers, addresses…”
“The truth is the government already has this… so what is the problem? Prime Minister accepted his mistake… he publicly apologised (over the farm laws). So what is the problem in compensating them?” Mr Gandhi asked, branding the Prime Minister’s and the centre’s actions “cowardly”.
“This is not how the Prime Minister of India should behave,” he declared.
Yesterday Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said the centre’s claim that it had no information on farmers’ deaths was an “insult”.
Tens of thousands of farmers protested for over a year against the centre’s farm laws before they were repealed this week, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered an “apology”.
During the protests, which include several violent clashes with police, many died. Still more died during the months-long blockade of the national capital.
Farmer leaders and opposition parties have joined hands to demand compensation for the families of those who died; last week farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said the issue would be their next focus.
Apart from Punjab, Telangana has also paid the families of farmers who died.
Last month Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, or KCR, said each family would get Rs 3 lakh. KCR also demanded the centre pay Rs 25 lakh to each family from its side.
With input from PTI