Help rain-hit farmers: Sonia Gandhi urges Haryana

Bhiwani/Karnal: In a bid to revitalise the rural support base of the Congress, party president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday reached out to farmers hit by crop loss due to unseasonal rain and hailstorm in Haryana, and appealed to the state government to give the farmers "right and timely compensation".

"I appeal to the government to give right and timely compensation to these farmers. That is what the government's responsibility is," Gandhi said during her visit to a village in Bhiwani district of Haryana on Saturday.

The Congress president was on a day-long visit to some of the rain-hit areas of Haryana.

Along with party leader and former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Gandhi visited around five districts on Saturday, including Bhiwani, Rewari and Karnal.

Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee president Ashok Tanwar told IANS that Gandhi sought to learn about the magnitude of the damage and assured the farmers that her party would raise the issue of compensation for their loss in parliament.

"The farmers felt relieved by Gandhi's visit and so did the state Congress workers who felt a renewed sense of energy within them," Tanwar said.

The visit came a day after she went to parts of Rajasthan to meet farmers affected by the inclement weather last week.

The Congress has been focusing on farmers' issues of late, with the party aggressively opposing the land acquisition bill, which it has termed anti-farmer.

However, the farmers pinned little hope on the high-profile visit.

Dubbing Gandhi's visit a "political stunt", Purna Singh, village council head of Barragaon in Karnal district told IANS: "She did lend an ear to the problems we are facing due to crop damage and assured us of putting pressure on the government for releasing compensation. But we have little hope because she is not in power."

Over 60 percent of the standing crop has been damaged in Barragaon alone and more than 40,000 acre land was thrashed in the entire district of Karnal, the farmers said.

"But not even a single official has come to take stock of the situation here," said Bhagatram, who lost most of his ready-to-cut wheat crop.

The personal involvement of Gandhi in the anti-land bill protests was visible when she wrote to activist Anna Hazare assuring that the Congress will oppose the contentious bill on all fora.

Congress leader Amarinder Singh, in a statement, said it was an "aggressive pursuit" of the farmers' cause by the party president.

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