Chandigarh: The Punjab government on Monday announced a series of measures for the welfare of the farming community, including its decision to bring in a comprehensive Agricultural Policy for the state in the next session of the Vidhan Sabha.
The announcements came during high-level meetings convened by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh with various farmer unions and their representatives here.
The Chief Minister directed settlement of claims of farmer suicide affected families within a month, with instructions to all DCs to hold a meeting on the 5th of every month to resolve such cases. The government has also decided to reimburse complete expenses of the farmer activist who was hospitalised during the recent farmer protest in Patiala, an official spokesperson disclosed after the meetings.
Reassuring them that his government had no plans to install water meters on tubewells, Amarinder also directed the concerned departments to take up installation of pending tubewell connections on priority. He ordered the officials to look into all concerns of the farming community with sympathy and ensure that their problems are resolved at the earliest.
The farmer representatives raised with the Chief Minister issues relating to farm debt waiver, stubble burning, interest imposed by ahrtiyas on loans and excess loans given by banks, among others. Captain assured them that his government was committed to the welfare of the farmers and would fulfil all promises made to them.
Responding to a demand by the farmer union on installation of tubewell connections, the Power Secretary said all pending cases would be taken up on priority and the necessary notification would be issued within a week. He categorically denied any proposal to install electricity meters. The CM said meters were being put on some pumps on the directions of the state electricity regulatory commission only to assess the quantum of usage to enable payment of subsidy to the powercoms.
The Chief Minister cautioned the farmers against excessive use of water, urging them to preserve the precious commodity for the future generations. He exhorted the farmers to go for crop diversification and said he would seek central government support in this regard.
Amarinder assured the unions that he would take up with the central government the issue of abolition of kurki by nationalised banks, as the state government had no jurisdiction over them. It was pointed out that kurki by cooperative banks had already been done away with by the state government, in line with the Congress manifesto promise.
Responding to a demand for complete farm loan waiver, the unions were informed that the loan settlement policy approved by the previous government was being reviewed. He said given the financial constraints being faced by his government, it had not been possible to waive off all loans in one go and it had been decided to first settle the loans of the small and marginal farmers, who constituted a large majority of the state’s total farming community. He pointed out that loan up to Rs 2 lakhs had been waived off for marginal farmers with less than 2.5 acres of land while small farmers with land from 2.5 to 5 acres would also get waiver up to Rs 2 lakhs.
The CM agreed with the unions on the need to implement the Swaminathan Committee report on MSP and said he would pursue the matter again with the central government.
Expressing serious concern on the problem of stubble burning, for which he has already ruled out penalisation of the farmers, he said while his government was exploring alternatives, he was also aggressively following up with the Centre for award of compensation for paddy residue management.
On the issue of jobs for the kin of farmers killed in agitations, the Chief Minister assured the Chief Principal Secretary to look into the matter. With regard to jobs for the kin of farmers who had committed suicide, Captain said those who had not already been provided employment will be inducted under the `Ghar Ghar Naukri’ programme.
The unions also raised the issue of penalties and FIRs against farmers over non-payment of electricity bills. While the Power Secretary pointed out that the penalties were being charged only in accordance with the provisions of the regulatory authority, the Chief Minister directed the department to issue instructions so that the aggrieved farmers could meet the SDM or the DC directly, without requiring a lawyer’s intervention.
He also promised to take up with the Centre the issue of cases filed against farmers by the Railway Protection Force (RPF). As for cases registered by the police to secure eviction of Panchayati land, he directed the Chief Principal Secretary to ensure that these are treated sympathetically.
The Chief Principal Secretary assured the sugarcane farmers that their pending bills, amounting to Rs 71 crore, would soon be cleared.
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