Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday announced a total waiver of crop loans upto Rs 2 lakhs for small and marginal farmers (upto five acres), and a flat Rs 2-lakh relief for all other marginal farmers, irrespective of their loan amount, paving the way for the eventual waiver of all agricultural debts to implement another major Congress poll promise.
Announcing this in the state Assembly, the chief minister said the move would benefit a total of 10.25 lakh farmers, including 8.75 lakh farmers with plots upto five acres. This initiative will provide double the relief announced by Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, he pointed out.
The decision was based on the interim report of the expert group headed by top economist T. Haque that was 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 the crop loans of farmers, Capt. Amarinder Singh said his government had also decided to take over the outstanding crop loans from institutional sources of the families of farmers who had committed suicide in the state. It has also decided to raise the ex-gratia payments for suicide-hit families to Rs 5 lakhs from the existing Rs 3 lakhs.
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 give the desired relief to farmers through mutually acceptable debt reconciliation and settlement, that shall be statutorily binding on both parties — the lender and borrower. The government has already constituted a Cabinet subcommittee to review this law, he added.
The chief minister proposed that the Speaker may constitute a five-member House committee to visit the families of the suicide victims, ascertain the reasons for suicides and suggest further steps to be taken. The chief minister told the House that his government had decided to repeal Section 67A of the Punjab Cooperative Societies Act 1961, which provides for the auction of farmers’ land.
The chief minister also reiterated his government’s commitment to provide free power to farmers but urged all big and well-to-do farmers to give up power their subsidy voluntarily. He announced that he would immediately give up the subsidy at his own farms to set a personal example, and asked his colleagues to do the same.
Attacking the previous Akali government for ruining the state’s agriculture and farmers, the chief minister said the Parkash Singh Badal government had accepted a loan of Rs 31,000 crores to cover the shortfall in the cash credit limit for procurement of foodgrains, for which his government had to pay Rs 270 crores every month and Rs 3,240 crores annually. Had this not been done, his government would have utilised the extra Rs 31,000 crores to benefit farmers as well, he added.