Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday described his interaction with the debt-ridden farmers of Maharashtra as "disturbing" and said there was a strong sense of abandonment among them because the government was ignoring their woes.
"My interaction with the farmers was very disturbing," Gandhi said at the end of his 15-km 'padyatra' (foot march) in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region, where he met families of farmers who committed suicide after their crops failed.
"I have come to Vidarbha earlier too, but not seen a situation like this... There is a feeling of abandonment. That is the problem," he told the media here.
Continuing his attack on the Narendra Modi government that he described as the one "for a select few corporates and not for farmers", Gandhi said: "When people are in distress, the role of the government is to comfort them. The government of Maharashtra and the central governments are ignoring the farmers."
Gandhi went to five villages in Amravati district where over 600 distressed farmers committed suicide in January.
Highlighting loans as the "biggest" issue that pushed the farmers towards death, Gandhi said: "The farmers want the government to forgo their debt. They are also complaining about not getting the MSP (market selling price) from the government which is not even increasing it."
"I want to tell the farmers of Maharashtra that they should not lose hope. We are with them... We will fight their battle," he added.
Gandhi reached Nagpur on Wednesday night and left for Gunj village, about 50 km from Amravati town, early on Thursday to begin the march.
On his way to Gunj, Gandhi was greeted by people who lined both sides of the roads. He spoke to some of them to get an insight into their problems.
A Congress official told IANS that Gandhi was accompanied by All India Congress Committee general secretary Mukul Wasnik, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president Ashok Chavan, Congress Legislature Party leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Youth Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Brar among others.
Maharashtra was the second state Gandhi visited after Punjab to meet farmers and campaign against the central government's controversial land ordinance which he says is anti-farmer.