CHANDIGARH: Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Monday announced a waiver of crop loans up to Rs 2 lakh for small and marginal farmers owning up to 5 acres, and a flat Rs 2 lakh relief for all marginal farmers, irrespective of their loan amount.
Making this announcement in the Assembly today, Amarinder said the move would benefit 10.25 lakh farmers, including 8.75 lakh farmers owning less than 5 acres. The initiative would provide double the relief announced by Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, he said.
The decision is based on the interim report of the Expert Group, headed by eminent economist Dr. T. Haque, and tasked with suggesting ways and means to help the state’s distressed farming community.
Asserting that his government stood by its commitment to waive crop loans, Amarinder Singh said it has also been decided to take over the outstanding institutional loans taken by families of farmers who have committed suicide. It was also decided to raise the ex-gratia given to suicide-affected families to Rs 5 lakh from the existing Rs 3 lakh.
Citing studies, the chief minister said there are about 18.5 lakh farming families in Punjab. About 65 per cent of them are small and marginal farmers, out of which 70 per cent have access to institutional finance.
As for non-institutional loans, the government has decided to review the Punjab Settlement of Agriculture Indebtedness Act to provide relief to such farmers through mutually acceptable debt reconciliation and settlement, which shall be statutorily binding on both parties, the lender and borrower. The government has already constituted a cabinet sub-committee to review this Act, he added.
Amarinder Singh proposed that the speaker constitute a five-member committee of the Vidhan Sabha to visit the families of suicide victims, ascertain the reasons for the suicide and suggest further steps to be taken to check this menace.
Amarinder Singh informed the House that his government had already decided to repeal Section 67 A of the Punjab Cooperative Societies Act, 1961, which provides for auction/kurki of farmers' land.
The chief minister reiterated his government’s commitment to provide free power to farmers but appealed to big and well-to-do farmers of the state to give up the power subsidy voluntarily. He announced his decision to immediately give up the subsidy at his own farms to set a personal example.
Lambasting the previous Akali government for ruining the state’s agriculture, the chief minister said the Badal regime accepted a loan of Rs 31,000 crore to cover the shortfall in cash credit limit for procurement of foodgrain, for which his government has to pay Rs.270 crore every month and Rs 3240 crore annually. Had this not been done, his government would have utilized the additional Rs 31,000 crore amount to benefit farmers, he added.
Announcing the establishment of a Paddy Straw Challenge Fund to stop the practice of crop residue burning by farmers, he informed the Assembly that he had already written to the Prime Minister to allow a bonus of Rs.100 per quintal to all those farmers who incorporate paddy straw in the soil instead of burning it.
He urged the Centre to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission and provide price support by way of deficiency pricing for maize and other crops for which MSP is fixed by them.