- 1.5 LAC MARGINAL FARMERS WITH LOANS OF OVER RS. 2 LAC, ALSO GIVEN RELIEF OF Rs. 2 LAC
- Rs. 2 LAKH RELIEF FOR OTHER MARGINAL FARMERS, HIKE IN EX-GRATIA FOR FARMER SUICIDE FAMILIES TO RS. 5 LAKH
- FREE POWER SUBSIDY FOR FARMERS TO CONTINUE
Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday announced total waiver of entire crop loans up to Rs. 2 lakh for small and marginal farmers (up to 5 acres), and a flat Rs. 2 lakh relief for all other marginal farmers, irrespective of their loan amount, thus paving the way for eventual total waiver of agricultural debts to implement another major poll promise of the ruling party.
Making the announcements during his speech in the Vidhan Sabha, the Chief Minister said the move would benefit a total of 10.25 lakh farmers, including 8.75 lakh farmers up to 5 acres. The initiative would provide double the relief announced by the states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, he pointed out.
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.
Making it clear that his government stood by its commitment to waive off the crop loans of the farmers, Captain Amarinder said his government had also additionally decided to take over the outstanding crop loan from institutional sources of all the families of farmers who committed suicides in the state. It has also decided to raise the ex-gratia for suicide affected families to Rs.5.00 lakh from the existing Rs.3.00 lakh.
For debt relief to farmers for loans raised from non-institutional resources, the government has decided to review the Punjab Settlement of Agriculture Indebtedness Act to provide the desired relief to the farmers through mutually acceptable debt reconciliation and settlement, which shall be statutorily binding on both the parties, the lender and the borrower. The government has already constituted a Cabinet Sub Committee to review this Act, he added.
The Chief Minister proposed that the Speaker may constitute a 5-Member Committee of Vidhan Sabha to visit the families of the suicide victims, ascertain the reasons for suicides and suggest further steps to be taken to check this menace forever.
Captain Amarinder 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 also reiterated his government’s commitment to provide free power to farmers but appealed to all big and well-to-do farmers of the state to give up power subsidy voluntarily. He announced his decision to immediately give up the subsidy at his own farms to set a personal example, and appealed to his colleagues to do the same.
Lambasting the previous Akali government for ruining the state’s agriculture and farmers, the Chief Minister said the Badal regime accepted a loan of Rs.31,000 crore to cover the shortfall in the cash credit limit for procurement of foodgrains, 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 also to benefit the farmers, he added.
Citing studies, the Chief Minister said there are about 18.5 lakh farming families in the state, and about 65% of them are small and marginal farmers, out of which about 70% have access to institutional finance.
Lamenting the problems faced by the farmers, the Chief Minister said his government’s priority would be to continuously increase income of all those who are dependent on agriculture while preserving the ecological balance, and announced that a State Agriculture Policy focusing on increase in farmers’ income on a sustainable basis would be formulated soon.
The Chief Minister also announced a series of other measures to bring the agriculture sector back on track. These include an agriculture sustainability programme with focus on various initiatives to boost cultivation, growth and quality of crops, backed by attractive remuneration and greater incentives on alternative crops. Other measures include revamp of Farm Extension Services and a new legislation to regulate agriculture education.
Announcing the establishment of a Paddy Straw Challenge Fund to stop the practice of crop residue burning by the farmers, the Chief Minister informed the House that he had already written to the Prime Minister to allow a bonus of Rs.100 per quintal to all those farmers who incorporate the paddy straw in the soil instead of burning it, as the farmers need to be incentivized in this regard.
Reiterating his government’s commitment not to allow Government of India to tinker with the MSP system, 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.
Referring to the smooth and corruption-free procurement process ensured by his government, the Chief Minister said not only was every grain of the 120 Lakh MT wheat that arrived in the mandis in April this year smoothly procured but farmers were also given timely payment. The farmers would continue to get fair deal in the coming paddy and cotton season as well, he added.
Captain Amarinder also announced the government’s decision to computerize all the operations in the State under the ‘End to End Computerization of Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) operations’ Scheme’ to ensure leakage/diversion free distribution of subsidized food grains to the eligible beneficiaries. The identified beneficiaries will be issued Smart Ration cards. and ration will be distributed through PoS devices using bio-metric authentication.
The Chief Minister further reiterated his commitment to the promotion of horticulture to help in crop diversification and boost farmers’ income. and announced a slew of initiatives for the same. It has also been decided to establish a Price Stabilization Fund to save the farmers from vagaries of market, particularly in the case of perishable commodities such as fruits and vegetables, he revealed.