Rahul Gandhi rules out early polls, defends loan waiver

March 10th, 2008 - 8:47 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi
(Lead)

Bhubaneswar, March 10 (IANS) Congress party general secretary and member of parliament Rahul Gandhi, addressing a farmers rally in Orissa, Monday defended the Rs.600 billion farm loan waiver while ruling out any possibility of an early general elections. Addressing the rally at Panikoili in Jajpur district on the concluding day of his four-day visit to the state, the 37-year-old leader said the loan waiver, announced in the national budget, would bring smile back to the face of farmers who are the backbone of our country.

“The farmers need not thank the government for the loan waiver package. Instead, the government should thank farmers as they work hard to feed the countrymen,” he said.

Accusing the Naveen Patnaik-led Orissa government of giving away the farmers’ land to the industrialists, he said it has resulted in prevalence of widespread resentment among the peasants here.

“Orissa farmers have lost 17 percent of their cultivatable land in last four years while the industrialists have increased their holdings to 17 percent during the present state government’s rule,” he alleged.

“Not only is the government taking farmers’ lands, it is also giving their water to industries. The farmers are not getting the legitimate due even after parting away with their lands,” Rahul told the gathering of around 50,000 farmers from seven coastal districts.

He said the Biju Janata Dal (BJD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine government in Orissa has failed completely on all fronts, and the state was reeling under abject poverty even though it has huge natural resources, including mineral deposits.

“As I am representing Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha, I had assumed it is the poorest state of the country after the Bundelkhand famine,” Gandhi said.

“After my four-day stay in Orissa, I now feel otherwise. I have seen abject poverty of the people here, which I had not witnessed anywhere else in the country,” he remarked.

“I found that the people are not getting basic amenities like education, health, electricity and drinking water.”

Citing irregularities in the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Gandhi said in Orissa he could not find a single place where the scheme is implemented “properly”.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was providing adequate funds to the state under various programmes, but the state government was not utilising them properly, he alleged.

Later, addressing a press conference at the Congress party state headquarters in Bhubaneswar, Gandhi said the delivery, distribution and resource utilisation system in the state had completely failed.

Gandhi said there was a time when the country was considered to be poor and there were no funds for the development. “But today, there are enough funds but no proper delivery system.”

When a reporter asked him to react to the Indian hockey team’s failure to make the cut for the Beijing Olympics, Gandhi said the selection process for hockey team needed to be widened and broad based.

“Good people often don’t get a chance to play for the team.”

Gandhi, son of Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, visited several towns and villages in Orissa during his visit.

Addressing many public rallies, he spoke about problems of the youth, unemployment, education, poverty and displacement of the tribals.

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