CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has called for a special Central government package to provide one-time loan waiver to the beleaguered, debt-ridden farmers of his state.
Amarinder made the request at a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Parliament House in Delhi on Wednesday.
Amarinder described the meeting as a courtesy call, during which the issue of farm debt waiver was also discussed. He said though he had sought financial assistance from the Centre, his government was committed to waiver of the farmers’ loans in the State and had already initiated a time-bound process for the same. The State Cabinet had, in its maiden meeting, directed the necessary steps to implement the Congress poll promise on farm debt waiver, he pointed out.
Expressing concern over the recent spate of farmer suicides in his State, he said he had requested Modi to announce a special package to pull out the farmers of Punjab out of the debt-trap.
The mounting farm debts was making the agriculture in Punjab increasingly unsustainable, endangering not only the food security of the nation but also the social fabric of this sensitive border state, said Amarinder, citing the pioneering role of Punjab in the production of foodgrain and thereby in National Food Security.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, he said the total farm debt in Punjab amounted to more than Rs 80,000 crore, including the crop loans in the cooperative sector amounting to about Rs 12,500 crore. The average debt per farm household in Punjab works out to be `8 lakh (including crop loan), while the state’s per hectare debt of small and marginal farmers was the highest in India.
Amarinder lamented that the problem had become so severe that many farmers were driven to suicide to escape the social and moral consequences of not being able to repay their debts. With the institutional sources of credit unable to provide the much-needed respite, especially to the marginal and small farmers, there was need to review the Central government’s agricultural policies to mitigate the emerging agrarian crisis in the State, he added.
Citing data, he said the State had produced a record 160.5 LMT of wheat during rabi 2016-17, of which 108.24 LMT was procured for the Central Pool. Despite the prevailing drought-like situation, the State also produced record 186.76 LMT of paddy during kharif 2016 and procured 143.33 LMT for Central Pool. The State has also achieved all-time record productivity of 756 kg lint per ha cotton during 2016-17, he added.
Despite their contribution, farmers were suffering from the woes of increasing costs, shrinking resource base and declining incomes, leading to accumulation of debt burden of the Punjab farmers, especially the small farmers. While these factors had forced the farmers into a vicious debt trap, the rising agricultural subsidies and deteriorating natural resources were further aggravating the state’s agricultural woes, said Amarinder.