Haryana agriculture Minister Jai Parkash Dalal stirred a controversy after he said that farmers who passed away during the ongoing farmers' protests in Delhi in the last two months, died by choice.
While addressing a press conference in Bhiwani on Saturday, February 13, Dalal said that 200 farmers who died during the ongoing protests would have died anywhere, even if they were at home, The Hindu reported.
The video clip of Dalal's remark went viral on social media platforms. "Around 200 people die in a population of 1-2 lakh every six months. So these farmers would have died at their homes as well," said Dalal adding that the deaths were in proportion to the annual death rate and the average age of a person in the country.
When the journalist asked why no condolences had been offered to the farmers who died during the ongoing protest, Dalal said that his sympathies are with all 135 crore Indians. When the journalist cited PM Modi's example and insisted on why no condolences, Dalal said the farmers died by choice.
When asked about the drift of farmers from Haryana to protest sites, Dalal said that some farmers are gullible and had joined the protests either out of sympathy or to support their caste or for some other reason.
Congress national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala took to Twitter and said that the minister was highly irresponsible and insensitive towards the farmers.
After the video went viral, the Haryana minister alleged that his statements were twisted and taken out of context. "During the press conference, I condoled the demise of farmers who died during the protest. Even if a person dies unnaturally, it is painful. As far as the matter of giving the status of martyred is considered, the Jawans are given this status as the government has made policy for it," Hindustan Times quoted the minister as saying.
He also tendered an apology for people who were hurt by his comments and asserted that he was consistently working for the welfare of the farmers.
This is not the first time that Dalal's remark on the farmer's protest sparked a controversy. In December last year, the minister had said that foreign powers (China, Pakistan) were hatching a conspiracy against India in the name of the farmers' protest.