NEW DELHI: A high-level panel headed by NITI Aayog advisor Tajamul Haque has advocated that the Centre should help Punjab with financial aid for farmers’ loan waiver, since the state, by becoming the food bowl of India, had bailed the country out at a time when it struggled to feed its people.
The report, a copy of which is with the New Indian Express, pegged the accumulated institutional debt of the state’s farmers as on March 31 this year at Rs 73,772 crore — Rs 59,621 crore of crop loan and Rs 14,151 crore of term loan. However, the total loan works out at Rs 1,20,000 crore, since 39 per cent debt belongs to informal category, including moneylenders.
“It was gathered that the state is facing a serious financial crisis and debt is increasing beyond proportions, making it difficult to service it,” the panel noted, while listing measures to raise financial resources.
“Imposing a special cess on alcoholic beverages, petrol and diesel, besides rationalisation of power subsidy, especially for farmers owning land more than 10 acres, are ways to mobilise resources for loan waiver. The state government should also issue Kisan Bonds and advise all Group A and B government employees to purchase the bonds,” the panel suggested, adding that the state should approach the Centre for a matching share, in recognition of its contribution in ensuring national food security.
The Haque committee also exhorted the state government to reach out to the affluent Punjabi NRIs to purchase Kisan Bonds and “even contribute liberally to funds to ameliorate the condition of farmers.” The government should also create a special debt waiver fund through liberal contributions from arhtiyas, business houses, industrialists and others, it suggested.
According to sources close to Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, the state government has accepted the report in its entirety and would soon implement measures advocated by the expert committee, which also consisted of Dr P K Joshi, director, Indian Food Policy Research Institute, South Asia Regional office; Dr B S Dhillon, vice-chancellor, Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana; and B S Sidhu, commissioner and director, Agriculture.
The panel also suggested that the state government immediately waive outstanding crop loans up to `2 lakh of all marginal farmers.