Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh has lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making a mockery of the plight of India’s debt-ridden farmers, dismissing his farmer loan waiver promise to Uttar Pradesh farmers as a poll gimmick with an eye on the votes of the large farming community in the state.
Questioning the timing of Modi’s promise of waiver of farm loans in U.P if his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in the state, Captain Amarinder accused the prime minister of indulging in electoral politics at the cost of the lives of hundreds of farmers. Had the Modi-led central government been sincere in its concern over the plight of the farmers reeling under debt burdens it would have by now waived off the loans of farmers across the country, including Punjab, said the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief.
Modi could easily have announced farm loan waiver on behalf of the central government, as was done by Dr. Manmohan Singh under the UPA regime, Amarinder pointed out, recalling that the Congress had waived off Rs. 70,000 crore of farmers’ loans when it was in power. It was evident that the farm debt waiver promise made by the prime minister during electioneering in U.P. and targeted only at farmers of that state was nothing more than a ploy to garner votes for his party, the Punjab Congress chief ministerial candidate added.
Captain reiterated his promise of waiving the loans of all farmers and agricultural labourers in Punjab, with or without the central government’s support, once the Congress comes to power in the state.
He pointed out that Modi had, even in his New Year eve address to the nation on December 31, 2016, announced only partial relief for farmers, giving a 60-day interest waiver to farmers who had taken loans from district cooperative banks. Why did the prime minister not announce a sweeping debt waiver for farmers across the country then, asked the the PPCC president.
The Punjab Congress chief recalled that a Congress delegation, led by Rahul Gandhi, had met the prime minister in December 2016 to submit a memorandum seeking farm loan waiver, but Modi had failed to address the legitimate and humanitarian demand as he was clearly waiting for the high-profile U.P. election to make any promise on this count. Captain , who was part of the delegation, said Modi’s false poll promises needed no elaboration, with his Lok Sabha election promises still awaiting realisation.
While any move to waive off farm loans in Punjab and other states was welcome, Amarinder said it did not, however, behove a person of the prime minister’s stature to play with the sentiments of the farmers and push them further to the brink of frustration and desperation. India, long known as the grain basket of the world, was today unable to feed its own farmers, lamented the PPCC chief, adding that what was needed was a structured policy framework rather than hyped poll promises to tackle the grave problem of farm loans.
The issue of farm loans was not a political matter to be exploited for electoral gains but was a humanitarian crisis which needed to be addressed on priority by the Centre on priority basis, he stressed, urging the prime minister to rise above petty political considerations and behave like a statesman in the interest of the country’s farming community.