Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh on Saturday labelled the two-day farmer agitation as a publicity stunt, encouraging accusations of ‘insensitivity’ and of ‘insulting’ the farmers.
"Any organisation will have 500, 1,000, 2,000 or 40,000 farmers, and they have to do something unique to appear in the media," Singh said in Patna on Saturday.
He said that an agitation by a few farmers would have no impact as the country have ’12 to 14 crore farmers’.
A total of 172 peasants’ bodies across the northern and western India have stopped selling their produce to the cities from June 1 to 10. Farmers have been dumping their produce on highways and roads, demanding loan waivers and higher minimum support price.
"When our farmers are committing suicide, this statement is really cruel," tweeted Shakeel Ahmed of the Congress condemning Singh’s comment.
"No farmers are participating in the strike. Farmers are happy with the schemes of the chief minister," said Singh’s Madhya Pradesh counterpart Balakrishna Patidar.
Union agriculture secretary SK Pattanayak has stated that the Centre is in talks with the states to deal with the issue rather than intervene directly.
Police flogged protesters with dumped vegetables for blocking a highway in Jaipur on Friday, the farmers responded by throwing tomatoes.
Basavaraj Patil of Rashtriya Swabhiman, termed the ministers' statements as an insult to ‘farmers’.
"Ministers have a track record of calling agitating peasant’s names such as 'anarchist', 'riotous' and so on," said Hannan Mollah of the CPM-supported All India Kisan Sabha.