OPINION
LOAN WAIVER FUNCTION II – MARCH 14 WILL BE REPEAT OF MANSA MESS-UP
Amarinder govt’s love for farmers, and my dad's for his scooter
- Nischay Pal
Amarinder govt’s love for farmers, and my dad's for his scooter



4.6 per cent. Four point six per cent. That's the mathematically-derived score achieved by the Punjab Government after one year of working hard to ameliorate the lot of the farmers. 

On the floor of the Assembly, CM Amarinder Singh announced a limited, conditional farm loan waiver that was to cover 10.22 lakh farmers. So far, about 46,000 have been covered as per the government's own claims. It had even held a massive function in Mansa to showcase its grand achievement. 

Now, it is holding yet another major loan waiver event in Doaba, and you must feel free to add that percentage to its annual score.

The Punjab Government, which won the hearts of the farmers of Punjab by holding a massive state function with taxpayers' money and gave farmers 6 feet x 3 feet IPL style certificates of loan waiver in Mansa in January, will now do the same for more farmers on March 14.
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If a situation can be messed up, trust his men to leave no stone unturned to mess it up. Course correction is almost anathema to him.
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For some reason, every single farmers' body has been castigating the government for its ham-handed handling of the loan waiver exercise, but governments do not learn so easily. 

Why would a government, which was singed politically even when it had tried to be a benefactor, not learn from what went wrong? After all, my dad does not ride a scooter anymore! 

Wait, I must first tell you a little bit about my dad.
  
A few years back, disregarding the clear directive of the doctor not to ride his scooter, my father celebrated his 74th birthday by saying an unprintable word about the doctor and reeled out a list of people who were super-active even in their 80s and 90s. No one could stop him that day from taking out his beloved two-wheeler against strong protests by the rest of the family.

Ten minutes later, we got a call. He had banged his machine into a car parked by the side of the 80-feet-wide road. He was bruised, and I was curious to know if his ego was.

"But how did the accident happen?" the doctor asked my mom. Dad was sullen, and silent. The doctor wasn't the guy he vibed very well with. My mom felt it was obligatory to explain.

"You see, doctor, this is how it goes. If there is a possibility of an accident happening, and my husband is riding his scooter, you can be sure that it will happen." I always admired the pithiness my mom could muster when she wanted to make a point. 
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"See doctor, it is like this. If there is a 10% chance of an accident, my husband provides the missing 90%." 
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The good doctor did not get it. "No, but it was an 80-feet-wide road and there was only one other cyclist in sight. So, how could..." 

Exasperated, my mom resorted to her favourite mathematical equation. "See doctor, it is like this. If there is a 10% chance of an accident, my husband provides the missing 90%." 

"Aha!" the doctor had found his eureka moment. 

"And if there is a zero per cent chance, I can provide 100% also! Besides, you are not my doctor anymore." This was my dad's decisive moment.

Amarinder Singh's government is a bit like that. If a situation can be messed up, trust his men to leave no stone unturned to mess it up. Course correction is almost anathema to him. He managed to do so during his last stint when he had brought in Suresh Kumar as his principal secretary, and the CMO had suddenly become functional. Now, even the same man as Chief Principal Secretary can’t do much if the political executive is determined not to learn.

 
At Mansa, it was the decision to call each of the defaulting debtors to the stage and making a big show of giving them unwieldy certificates. Besides, the selection of the beneficiaries was shoddy. And the decision to completely exclude farm labourers seemed a super-intelligent move to win some special antipathy of the utterly marginalised.

For the function slated for March 14, most likely to be held in Jalandhar with a political telescope directed towards the upcoming Shahkot bye-election, the Amarinder Singh government has found a still better way of antagonising farmers.

While Deputy Commissioners have been tasked with carrying out identification of such farmers and getting them to fill self-declaration forms, then having them verified, in reality, the Congress MLAs have been made the masters of the roster, to use the nation's new political parlance.
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Farmers looking forward to having their measly debt waived off will now need to be in the local MLA's good books since the legislator now has the unofficial (and unbridled) power to authenticate the case.
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Farmers looking forward to having their measly debt waived off will now need to be in the local MLA's good books since the legislator now has the unofficial (and unbridled) power to authenticate the case. Orwellian-speak terms like MLAs "facilitating" the process and doing "public service" punctuate the news reports but down in the villages, they understand what it means.

 
"Saanu apni lat thalle langhauna chauhnde ne (literal translation: they want us to pass underneath their leg)," said a leader of a farmer union. But then, you do not need literal translations to understand how a local MLA wants an opponent to behave.

"Villages are now places of deeply entrenched factionalism, and this system forces a family owing affiliation to a different political party to go with folded hands to the local Congress MLA or area strongman to get itself included in the loan waiver list. The MLAs are using this form-authentication power to either browbeat their opponents, or cajole them, to expand their writ," he explained.

The clever by half regime has kept this system of MLA doing this "public service" informal, otherwise the opposition MLAs will also get similar power. Wherever there are no Congress MLAs, someone has been made the unofficial halqa in charge, a perverse system put in place by the Akalis but carrying currency even in the Congress regime.

The forms are to be eventually deposited with the district administration for the final waiver. Ideally, the self-declaration details were to be displayed in villages so that objections can be invited and any unworthy, undeserving claimants can be weeded out. 
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After a poor selection of beneficiaries in the Mansa round, a system is now in place to guarantee even poorer selection. Last time, there was the inefficient officialdom. This time, a super efficient MLA out to fix opponents.
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But since the Amarinder government was busy trying to retain the one officer who was responsible for whatever success the Mansa event achieved, it did not find enough time to kick-start the next phase of loan waiver in time. Now, there will be no time for verification. As a result, whosoever can manage a stamp from the MLA will benefit, others will rue the system.

After a poor selection of beneficiaries in the Mansa round, a system is now in place to guarantee even poorer selection. Last time, there was the inefficient officialdom. This time, a super efficient MLA out to fix opponents.

 
There was a possibility of the Amarinder government messing it all up, and it did no  better than my dad on his scooter.

Listen to Sunil Jakhar, the president of the Punjab Congress who has now virtually confirmed that the "public service" performing MLA is a political tool of hegemony. 

When reporters asked him who will authenticate the self-declaration forms in the 40 constituencies which happen to have made the cardinal mistake not electing Congress MLAs, Jakhar said, "The MLAs of other parties are also welcome to involve themselves, provided that they accept the policy is good.”

If there is a zero per cent chance, the Congress can provide the entire 100% to ensure the party lands in a soup.

The idea of mal-administration has been normalised to such an extent that a very senior IAS officer actually directed top district officials at a meeting to get in touch with MLAs, and in case there was no Congress MLA, to identify the local Congress honcho. The officer had to be reminded that such instructions could be conveyed over phone instead of at the meeting.

So, how many farmers across Punjab will fall in love with the Amarinder Singh regime once all the 1.25 lakh forms are authenticated by various MLAs of the Congress for nearly Rs 580 crore worth of farm loan waiver? 

"One thing is for sure: we will not leave out any farmer, no matter to which political party is he affiliated, if he belongs to Shahkot," an official in a Doaba district informed. As if more proof was needed about the intentions behind holding the function in Doaba. 
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No decision has been taken about loan waiver for families most in need, the ones referred to as suicide-affected families. Similarly, no decision has been taken about waiving off the debt of farm labourers. In fact, even primary talks have not started on this front.
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Political pundits said the next functions will be held in Sangrur and Gurdaspur. The CM will also attend the Sangrur function but Gurdaspur is Jakhar's territory, so he will be given a chance to showcase himself. All arrangements with an eye on politics, not the cries emerging from Punjab’s farms.

For the time being, the loan waiver continues to remain limited to cooperative societies' loans.

No decision has been taken about loan waiver for families most in need, the ones referred to as suicide-affected families. Similarly, no decision has been taken about waiving off the debt of farm labourers. In fact, even primary talks have not started on this front.
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For earlier stories by Punjab Today on how the Punjab government should have handled the debt waiver event, please click the following:

#  ਮੁੱਖ ਮੰਤਰੀ ਸਾਹਬਕਿਰਪਾ ਕਰਕੇ 7 ਜਨਵਰੀ ਦਾ ਪ੍ਰੋਗਰਾਮ ਰੱਦ ਕਰ ਦਿਓ। ਮੇਰੀ ਅਧਿਆਪਕਾ ਜਿਉਂਦੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਹੀਪਰ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਕਰਕੇ ਇਹਨੂੰ ਰੱਦ ਕਰੋ!

Mr Chief Minister, please call off January 7 function. My teacher is not alive, but you please call it off!

ਬੀਬੀ ਭੱਠਲ ਨਾਲ ਹੋਈ ਬੇਇਨਸਾਫ਼ੀ — ਨਹੀਂ ਸਹਾਂਗੇਨਹੀਂ ਸਹਾਂਗੇ

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As of now, the government is merely discussing whether the Doaba function should be designated as State Function, in which case the government will pay for it. As per the latest information, the decision is to keep it as an event of the Cooperative Department. 

One thing is for sure: the loan waiver function will be a full scale tamasha where television cameras and channels will beam to the world the faces of frail, old farmers with folded hands looking expectedly towards a benevolent Maharaja and blessing him for such generosity.

These images are expected to win votes in 2019.

My dad stopped riding his scooter long back. The CM should, also. 
 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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