Crop loans of up to Rs 2 lakh waived off, aarhtiya loan not covered; suicide relief now Rs 5 lakh
CHANDIGARH: Loans of up to Rs 2 lakh of Punjab's small and marginal farmers will be waived off by Punjab government, but the decision will not cover loans extended by arhtiyas. Other marginal farmers will be given a relief of Rs 2 lakh, irrespective of their loan amount.
Also, the ex-gratia relief for suicide affected families has been raised to Rs.5 lakh from the existing Rs.3 lakh.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh made this announcement in Punjab Assembly today.
Thus, a farmer owning up to five acres of land who has a Rs 6 lakh loan will find his loan burden reduced to Rs 4 lakh, while a farmer owning the same land but under a Rs 2 lakh loan will find himself free from having to pay it back.
It was not immediately clear if farmers owning more than 5 acres of land will get any relief in the matter of loans.
>> Small and marginal farmers whose crop loan is less than Rs 2 lakh will be free of loan
>> Marginal farmers with loan of more than Rs 2 lakh will find their loan liability reduced by Rs 2 lakh
>> No relief for farmers owning more than 5 acres of land
>> No relief in case of loans taken from aarhtiyas, commission agents
>> Suicide families to get Rs 5 lakh as ex-gratia relief
>> Arbitration mechanism to be set up for aarhtiya, commission agent debts
Significantly, what is likely to draw heavy criticism from farmer unions, was the rider attached by Amarinder Singh to what he called "total waiver of entire crop loans."
The term "crop loans" is exactly the phrase used by UP Chief Minister Yogi Aditiyanath, leaving out non-institutional loan, and the Congress has been protesting against it in that state.
Incidentally, Amarinder Singh’s decision capping the loan waiver at Rs 2 lakh came on a day when the talks between farmers’ leaders and DevendraFadnavis government in Maharashtra broke down on the question of capping the loan waiver. The reaction of the various factions of Bharti Kisan Union and other farmer organisations is not likely to be any different in Punjab, sources said.
Amarinder Singh, on his part, said the decision was a move towards "paving the way for eventual total waiver of agricultural debts to implement another major poll promise of the ruling party," a statement issued by the government here said.
The CM said 10.25 lakh farmers would benefit from the loan waiver, including 8.75 lakh farmers owning up to 5 acres. "The initiative would provide double the relief announced by the states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra," he pointed out.
Agricultural labourers in Punjab, considered the most vulnerable and near landless altogether, have been completely left out in Amarinder’s loan waiver goodies distribution, a political stance that left many experts surprised, particularly since it comes at a time when the Congress is trying to woo the Dalits. A large number of farm labourers, or khetmazdoors, in Punjab are Dalits.
Amarinder Singh said the decision was based on the interim report of the Expert Group, headed by eminent economist Dr. T. Haque, which was tasked with suggesting ways and means to help the state’s distressed farming community.
The state government has also decided "to take over the outstanding crop loan from institutional sources of all the families of farmers who committed suicide in the state." There was, however, no word on whether the government planned to take over any debt of families of farm labourers who committed suicide and whose debt was often not institutional in nature.
The ex-gratia relief for suicide affected families has been raised to Rs.5 lakh from the existing Rs.3 lakh.
For debt relief to farmers for loans raised from non-institutional resources such as arhtiyas, money lenders, commission agents or shopkeepers etc., 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.
Such arbitration "shall be statutorily binding on both the parties, the lender and the borrower."
The CM said the government has already constituted a Cabinet Sub Committee to review this Act.
Amarinder Singh proposed that the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly may constitute a 5-member committee of the 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.
Amarinder Singh also reiterated his government’s commitment to continue the free power supply 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.
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