Rahul’s day in parliament, bats for small farmers

March 13th, 2008 - 7:53 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, March 13 (IANS) It was Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s day in parliament. While the opposition targeted him for his ‘night out’ in Maoist-infested Orissa, he made a forceful appeal for small farmers as well as “the disempowered”. Pitching strongly for the farmers in poorly irrigated areas like Vidarbha, Gandhi suggested there should not be any landholding ceiling to choose farmers whose loans the government proposes to waive, nor should there be a single cut-off date for the loan waiver scheme.

Taking part in the discussion on the general budget, the Amethi MP, seen by many as a future prime ministerial candidate, spoke about the need for wiping out the differences between the empowered and the disempowered in the country.

“Speed and continuity of our economic growth depends on inclusion. A small section of India cannot grow indefinitely while the rest disempowered looks on. If opportunities are limited to a few, our growth will just be a fraction of our ability to grow,” he said.

Praising the union budget presented in parliament as “landmark”, the Congress MP suggested that the country needs a revolution in its education sector.

“It is my conviction that the schools and universities will become worthy of our nation’s voice only when the education sector goes for a revolution - like that of what happened in the communication sector,” he said.

Gandhi, who was mostly reading out from a written speech, was keenly heard by his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other party MPs, who were thumbing the desk frequently.

“I have two suggestions for the finance minister. Land ceiling for eligible farmers does not account for land productivity, excluding deserving farmers in the poorly irrigated areas such as Vidarbha. Land ceiling should be variable based upon the land productivity,” Gandhi said as MPs, especially those from Maharashtra, applauded.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in his budget has announced a Rs.60,000 crore (Rs.600 billion) loan waiver for the small and marginal farmers.

Pointing out that the single cut-off date of March 31 last year for the farm loans would “unfairly penalise” the farmers as various regions have different crops, Gandhi said: “Localised cut-off dates should be considered.”

Expressing his concern for the lack of accountability and transparency in the service delivery, Gandhi asked the government to make the Panchayati Raj institutions the centre of implementation of welfare schemes. He also sought to create incentives for the states that do it.

He also sought special budgetary provisions for building a self-help group networking for the poor in states.

Earlier in the day, the Lok Sabha witnessed unruly scenes when the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP raised the issue of alleged violation of security rules during Gandhi’s Orissa visit last week, which triggered verbal clashes between the treasury and opposition benches.

Congress as well as Left MPs came together to protest when Brij Kishore Tripathi said that during his ‘Discover India’ visit to Orissa, Gandhi, under a Z-Plus security cover, had left the guesthouse he was staying in maoist-infested Koraput for some “undisclosed destination” for four hours at night on March 7 without informing the local police.

Gandhi, who was not present in the house when the matter created pandemonium for almost half an hour, was seen being briefed by Sachin Pilot who was seated near him when he came in later.

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