Mumbai: In controversial remarks, Revenue Minister of Maharashtra Eknath Khadse on Monday said if farmers have money to pay their mobile phone bills, why are they reluctant to clear their electricity dues.
“They (farmers) pay their mobile bills month after month because they do not want their phone connection to get disconnected. They know if their phone gets disconnected, they will not be able to speak to anyone…Right?”
“If they have money to pay their mobile bills, then why they do not have money to pay their electricity bills? They should make it a habit to pay bills and loans,” he said at a press conference in Akola in Vidarbha, a region which has earned infamy for farmer suicides.
Main opposition Shiv Sena was quick to slam Khadse for his “insensitive” remarks.
Speaking to reporters at Nanded in Marathwada, a region reeling under water scarcity, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said BJP ministers are emulating their counterparts in the erstwhile Congress-NCP government.
If they make such “insensitive” remarks, there will be no difference between the present BJP government and the previous Congress-NCP administration, he said.
“BJP has become egoistic after coming to power…This is not right. What is the difference between Eknath Khadse and Ajit Pawar (NCP leader who too had made controversial remarks against farmers when he was a minister)?” he asked.
Thackeray is on a state-wide tour to take stock of drought-like condition in various parts of the State.
The Sena chief said mobile companies at least provide network in return for the charges but alleged the government has failed to ensure regular electricity to farmers.
“At least, the mobile phones of farmers have networks but farmers are in a bad state due to lack of electricity. Suicides have still not stopped.”
Thackeray said it is the government’s responsibility to work for the welfare of farmers and merely announcing monetary packages will do no good.
A lot of noise was made about Jan Dhan Yojana. The Centre spoke about hundreds of crore of rupees being deposited in banks and thousands of accounts being opened. Now the government should use this scheme to directly transfer the aid money in farmers’ accounts,” he said.