New Delhi, July 23: A reply on farmer suicides by Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh in Parliament in which a reference to love affairs being a cause on Friday triggered a storm with Opposition parties accusing the government of being insensitive.
In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, Singh said the causes of suicides by farmers due to agrarian reasons include indebtedness, crop failure, drought, socio-economic and personal. [Love affairs, impotency behind farmer suicides: Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh]
However, a reference to National Crime Record Bureau listing general causes of suicides including love affairs, barrenness and impotency, caused indignation with Opposition leaders dubbing the minister insensitive.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi counselled Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ask his ministers to visit the houses of farmers to "see what is going on".
SP leader Naresh Agrawal demanded an apology from the minister terming his remarks as "irresponsible" while CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury described as "ridiculous" the reasons given for suicides while the ground reality was different.
He also alleged that the number of distress suicides has gone up by 26 per cent in last one year since NDA came to power and the reply was meant to "divert attention" from the actual reasons of suicide.
CPI leader D Raja said the reply shows "callousness" of the government towards the issue of farmer suicide, which takes place because of the "unprecedented debt crisis" faced by them and the government should take steps to come to their relief.
JD-U leader K C Tyagi said apart from being insensitive it was an "insult" to farmers. He threatened to move a privilege notice against the minister for "misleading" Parliament.
Facing storm, Singh sought to downplay the controversy saying the answer was based on a report by the NCRB, which the government cites in its replies.
In the answer, the minister also cited NCRB data to show that the number of suicides committed by farmers under persons self employed in farming/agriculture category in 2012, 2013 and 2014 were 13,754, 11,772 and 5650 respectively.
The number of suicides committed by farmers attributed to agrarian distress during 2012,2013 and 2014 as reported by state governments was 1,066, 890 and 1,400 respectively. The figure up to June 2015 is 263, the reply said.