CHANDIGARH: Within 71 days of the newly formed Congress government’s reign in Punjab, nearly 45 farmers have committed suicide and the trend seems to continue. In Bathinda, Barnala, Mansa and Sangrur districts alone some 32 farmers have committed suicide in the past three months due to financial constraints.
Highly placed sources said that the farmers in the state have around a debt of Rs 80,000 crore. When Congress government came to power, it had stated that it will sort out the issue within two months. However, nothing has been done on ground. A high-level committee was formed to look into the issue and give a report on a possible loan waiver but it has not submitted its report as till date it has held only two meetings.
A senior official said on condition of anonymity that the state cabinet meeting is likely to the held on May 26 or May 30 and one of the an agenda for the meeting has been prepared by the cooperation department despite objections from finance and revenue departments.
Reportedly, the state government mulling to omit the kurki clause under Section 67A of Punjab Cooperative Societies Act 1961, making the financial institutions including banks incapable of auctioning mortgaged land of the farmers.
Sources point out that once this clause is abolished thus the cooperative banks will not be able to auction the land of famers but the nationalised banks will be able to do it as this will not be applicable on them.
Promising early waiver of their debts, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has once again assured the farmers that his government would not backtrack on its promise and urged them not to resort to suicide as the higher-powered committee set up to work out the waiver modalities was on the job in right earnest.
Pointing out that his government had already put a stop on ‘kurki’ (auction of mortgaged land), he said there was no question of going back on any of the commitments made to the people.
With a view to help the farmers, the Punjab government has directed its district central cooperative banks to broad base its loan portfolio to increase its profitability and design it in such a manner so that maximum financial benefits should reach to the poorest of the poor amongst the farmers.
Punjab financial commissioner cooperation and Chairman Punjab State Cooperative Bank Limited VK Singh suggested the banks design more farmer friendly loan schemes so that they can avail loans at a competitive rate of interest and wean them away from the very high-interest regime of the unorganised sector like money lenders. He said that presently the cooperative banks were advancing crop loans of nearly Rs 12,500 crore to nearly 9 lakh farmers in the State 75% of which belong to the small and marginal farmers categories.