Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said political parties must collectively find a solution to the deep-rooted problems in the agricultural sector leading to suicides by farmers across the country and promised to consider all suggestions made by the Opposition in this regard.
"Farmer suicides have been a matter of concern for many years," he said in a brief intervention in the Lok Sabha, where the Congress and other opposition parties raised the issue of the suicide by a farmer from Rajasthan in full public view during a rally organised by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at Jantar Mantar here yesterday.
As the political blame game over the incident continued both inside and outside Parliament, Mr Modi said successive governments had tried to solve the problem in different ways over the decades.
Joining the members in expressing deep pain over the death of the farmer, Gajendra Singh, Mr Modi said the House must resolve to find a solution to the issue.
"It is a huge problem, it is an old, deep-rooted and widespread problem. It has to be addressed in that context," he said.
"Nothing is more important than farmers' lives. nothing is more important than a human being's life. We have to identify flaws in the system, we have to identify shortcomings in the system," he said.
"We cannot leave the farmers to fend for themselves in a helpless condition. We will have to be a part of his pain and sorrow. We have to be a part of his future," he said.
"I appeal to the House to resolve to ensure that farmers would not be allowed to die like this," he added.
“There should be a collective resolve in this regard. We have an open mind to consider any suggestion that is made... We cannot let the farmers die,” he said.
The Congress and other parties raised the issue in the Lok Sabha as soon as the House assembled but Speaker Sumitra Mahajan agreed to allow them to speak on it in zero hour, even as the government said it was prepared to discuss the matter.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Mansur urged the government to order a judicial inquiry into the incident, saying that the probe by the Delhi Police could not be regarded as unbiased in view of the allegations of inaction made against the police.
Responding to the concern expressed by the Members, Home Minister Rajnath Singh made a statement on the incident and said that the crowd at the AAP rally had clapped their hands and raised slogans as Gajendra Singh climbed the tree.
He said that individuals who threaten to commit extreme acts in such manner need to be handled with great care and engaged in a discussion so that he could be calmed down and what the crowd did had the exactly opposite effect of provoking him further.
Mr Singh said the policemen on the spot had informed the police control room of the man climbing the tree and asked for help from the fire brigade in the form of tall ladders so that he could be brought down safely. The police officers also tried to dissuade the crowd from raising slogans or egging him on.
The Minister gave details of how the man tied a cloth around his neck and to a branch of the tree and hanged himself. Some people reached him and tried to untie the cloth, but he fell down to the ground in the process, he said.
AAP leaders denied the Minister's allegations and accused him of "spreading lies". They said volunteers of the party had, in fact, climbed the tree to try and rescue the farmer, even as the police remained mute spectators.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers staged a demonstration against the AAP rally outside Police Headquarters this morning, while members of the Youth Congress held a protest outside Delhi Chief Miniser and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal's residence.
Meanwhile, the body of the 42-year-old Gajendra Singh was taken to his village in Dausa district of Rajasthan, where it was cremated. A large number of political leaders reached the village to offer their condolences to the bereaved family.
Congress leader Ajay Maken said at a press conference here that only a judicial inquiry headed by a judge of the High Court could establish the truth in the matter.