CHANDIGARH: The Punjab Government today launched a farm debt waiver scheme for a section of
marginal, debt-ridden farmers in the state from Mansa in Punjab amid protests from farmers and AAP activists.
Launching the farm debt waiver scheme, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh cited figures to point out that not only had his government announced higher loan waiver than other states, including
the BJP-ruled ones, but had, in fact, done so despite the huge financial constraints faced by it. He gave the examples of Maharashtra (upto Rs 1.5 lakh), UP (upto Rs 1 lakh), Rajasthan (upto Rs 50000), MP (upto Rs 1 lakh) and Karnataka (upto Rs 50000).
His government had fulfilled another major promise with this launch, said the chief minister, as he symbolically handed over waiver certificates to 10 farmers from the five districts of Mansa, Bathinda, Faridkot, Muktsar and Moga.
Asserting that he wanted the poor farmers in the state, which has 17.5 lakh farming families to benefit under the scheme, he said 10.25 lakh farmers were being covered, which only left out the bigger farmers. He himself was a big farmer and others like him, including Parkash Singh Badal, could manage to look after themselves, said Amarinder.
He said the entire loan waiver process would be completed in four phases and his government would find ways and means of making it happen, despite not getting any help from the Centre. He had personally had several meetings with the central government to seek support in debt waiver but the Centre had not extended any help in this matter to any state. Despite this, however, he did not allow himself to be deterred from fulfilling this vital promise made to the farmers, Captain Amarinder added.
The nearly 47000 farmers who had taken loans from 701 Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies of the five districts were getting their money in their bank accounts, he said, describing the launch as a
beginning towards solving the problems that were causing farmers to commit suicide. A total of 5.63 lakh farmers will benefit in the first phase, which will provide relief to the tune of Rs 2700 crores.
The protests were held under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) which termed the scheme as a non-starter.
"The loan waiver announced by the state government is all fake. It is peanuts compared the mammoth debt of farmers. We will not accept this waiver,” said BKU farmer Kirpal Singh.
Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Aam Aadmi Party co-president for Punjab Aman Arora started a sit-in protest in Mansa.“ This exercise of loan waiver is a complete sham. The farmers of
Punjab have been cheated in the name of waiving off their debt. We have cheques of Rs 7, 10, 12 and a few hundred rupees being issued to farmers. Is this the loan waiver that the Congress promised?” Khaira asked.
Punjab Police did not allow the protesting farmers to reach the venue of the loan waiver event.
Amarinder lambasted the Akalis, AAP and certain Kisan Unions for spreading false propaganda on the farm debt waiver promise. referred to yesterday’s reported suicide of a Barnala farmer to point to
the extent of shameless mis-propaganda which the opposition parties and some of the unions had unleashed.
Amarinder categorically denied any such suicide on account of non-inclusion of the farmer’s name in the waiver list. The farmer’s name was included in the list from Barnala, he said, adding that it was obvious that a fraudulent campaign had been launched by vested interests.
He questioned the Akalis, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and some Kisan Unions, which were behind the propaganda campaign, on how they expected his government to give out more than it could afford to.