‘I will create conditions where no farmer will commit suicide’

Neither soldiers nor farmers are now safe in India, belying the slogan, Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, given to the nation by the former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, BJP leader Narendra Modi told a public rally here on Thursday.

Holding the Centre and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar responsible for the recent suicides by farmers in Maharashtra, the BJP prime ministerial candidate said he wanted to create conditions where no farmer would kill himself.

Asserting that more Indian soldiers had been killed in terror attacks than in wars, Mr. Modi said, “Such a big India…and such a small Pakistan.”

Referring to Rahul Gandhi as shehzade, Mr. Modi waned to know how the Congress leader would bring back the heads of Indian soldiers decapitated by Pakistanis.

To cheers of Har Har Modi, the Gujarat Chief Minister began speaking in Marathi and then switched to Hindi as he launched the election campaign for the 10 Lok Sabha constituencies from Vidarbha. He introduced all BJP candidates by name to the audience.

Poking fun at the relief “packages” being promised to farmers by the Central and State governments, Mr. Modi asked: “Have you ever received anything from these packages?”

In his analysis of farmer distress, Mr. Modi said that on the one hand, the government had banned cotton exports and, on the other, chose to subsidise mutton exports. “There are villages where only five to 50 head of cattle are left.”

Attacking Indira Gandhi for nationalising banks on the promise that they would work for the poor, Mr. Modi claimed just five per cent of bank credit went to farmers.

When Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said that out of every one rupee spent by the government only 15 paise reached the intended beneficiaries, the Congress was in power everywhere, Mr. Modi pointed out and held the “hand” responsible for grabbing the rupee.

Suggesting that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance had abandoned the promising scheme of linking rivers, which would help both the flood and drought-affected, Mr. Modi hinted that he would revive the plan if his party was voted to power.

Just like the global carbon credit scheme, he wanted to introduce a system of “water credit” for individuals who conserved the precious resource. Supporting the idea of micro-irrigation and drip irrigation, Mr. Modi said priority should be given to bring water to the farmer.

Calling upon farmers to grow timber trees around their land, he said these could be sold in times of distress and no farmer would have to commit suicide.

Making a case for a village-centric economy, Mr. Modi felt that “ketchup should be made close to the farmer” who grew tomatoes. He said the Railways gave no priority to ferrying farmers’ produce like the famous Nagpur oranges.