CHANDIGARH: Following on from states that are trying to fob off farmers with loan waivers, the government of Amarinder Singh in Punjab is likely to announce one of its own, perhaps by June 20.
Ripples from last week's protests by farmers in Madhya Pradesh reached Punjab today with farmers staging demonstrations across the state demanding debt waiver and a minimum 50 per cent return on cost of production.
Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal told New Indian Express that an expert group on farm debt constituted by the Amarinder Singh government would submit its interim report shortly.
"I cannot say what they have recommended, but we have made provisions in the budget accordingly, which will be tabled in the Assembly on June 20,’’ he said.
"When the Congress came to power in Punjab, we said we would waive farmers' debt and we are committed to it,’’ he said.
Onkar Singh, general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union's Rajewal faction, said today's demonstrations were in support of the six farmers killed in Madhya Pradesh last week. "We have come to know that 12 farmers were killed in Madhya Pradesh and many are missing. We are with our brothers,’’ he said.
The BKU's Ugrahan faction said its demand is for implementation of the M S Swaminathan Commission report which recommended minimum support prices (MSP) at 50 per cent more than the weighted average cost of production.
"Also we want the Punjab government to give Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the family of every farmer who commits suicide due to debt,’’ said the union's general secretary Sukhdev Singh.
Many farmer organizations such as BKU (Rajewal), BKU (Ugrahan), BKU (Dakunda), Krantikari Kisan Union and Kisan Sangharsh Committee participated in the demos today.
The opposition alliance of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the BJP too got involved, with SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and BJP Punjab president Vijay Sampla leading party supporters in dharnas at all district HQs.
The issues they raised were increasing incidence of farmer suicides and the government's failed promise of one job per family.