DEBT WAIVER AT MANSA – WHY DID MRS BHATTAL NOT GET A PARMAN PATAR?
Punjab farmers and IPL cricketers – Finally, they can stand like equals
- S Pal
Punjab farmers and IPL cricketers – Finally, they can stand like equals



FINALLY, THE MOST impoverished among Punjab’s farmers could claim an equal footing with the much celebrated IPL cricket players who are ritually showered with vulgar amounts of cash.

It is a day like this one when history produces imagery that lasts rulers — a Napoleon storming the Bastille, a Marie Antoinette advising the poor to opt for the cake, a Rosa Parks refusing to vacate her seat in a bus, a black man telling the world he has a dream, closer home a prime minister explaining the impact of a big tree falling, or still closer, a CM handing over a debt-waived off certificate to a farmer.

Of the many things for which Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh will be remembered for decades to come will be the sheer size of the certificate he handed over to the farmers, calling each one to the stage. 
 

Reeling under debt, grateful for their good fortune since they had successfully negotiated the minefield of paperwork, lottery, good graces of local Congress strongman, spellings of their name in the Aadhar card and 33 other improvised explosive devices thought up by Punjab's babus, these men, often above 50, some almost 70 plus, were helped on to the stage, asked to turn their faces towards the whirring cameras of television channels and place their hands ritually on the 'Parman Patar', as the CM as well as Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar touched it tantalizingly.
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It's a pity no reporter tracked these lucky farmers as they trudged back home, the unwieldy 'Parman Patar' a little difficult to handle. I saw one boarding a bus, the conductor insisting that the farmer would have to buy a separate ticket for it.

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"Karza Mukt!" What a relief!

It's a pity no reporter tracked these lucky farmers as they trudged back home, the unwieldy 'Parman Patar' a little difficult to handle. I saw one boarding a bus, the conductor insisting that the farmer would have to buy a separate ticket for it.

An official I spoke to said the initial idea was to have 8 feet x 3 feet certificates, as that would have enabled a number of ministers to squeeze themselves into the frame. However, the final product was a little shy of six feet by two and a half feet. "Roughly equal to the cheques that IPL cricketers are given," the helpful official of the cooperative department informed me.
 
 Also Read:  A DOKLAM IN EVERY FIELD: Farmers not only produce food. They produce peace.

I did not say anything, and did not indulge in any violent act, which is proof that I am a peace-loving citizen even in the face of grave provocation.

A farmer with a 'khoonda' in hand was passing by at that moment, but he probably did not hear the conversation, which is proof that Merciful Providence is kind to Punjab government officials.

Dr Gian Singh, a well known economist and academician who has studied the quantum of farm debt in Punjab, was furiously punching keys on his calculator. "Zero point one eight percent," he said. 
"Sorry?" I had missed the context. "The loan that Amarinder Singh government waived off today – it comes to 0.18% of what Amarinder Singh had promised."

Dr Gian Singh is a researcher who is too careful about decimal points, so I had to ask him the next question very diplomatically. 
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From 10 lakh farmers who were to benefit, to the 1,60,783 farmers identified last month as being eligible for the first waiver tranche, to the finally selected 46,556 farmers, Amarinder government’s farm debt waiver has shrunk to a parody of its original.
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"Are you sure this calculator works properly?" 

"Calculator theek ae, sarkar da dimaag kharab hai," he snapped at me.

As I look at the column inches space that newspapers devoted to covering the extravaganza at Mansa on January 7, Sunday, I wonder at the space allocation algebraic formulas that media houses choose. God bless the UIDAI for going after The Tribune's reporter Rachna Khaira with an FIR and thus claiming some frontpage free publicity for itself, or Amarinder Singh's 6 feet long certificate would have claimed more space on page one across mastheads.
 

Size matters, clearly, and since we are on the subject of size, let's measure how deep the joke cuts.

From the total farm loan/debt waiver that Amarinder had promised (see video, January 2017), estimated by experts at a little shy of Rs 1 lakh crore, to the government's own estimate of Rs 59,000 crore worth of only crop loans (March 2017), to an announcement on the floor of the Punjab Assembly to waive off loans worth just Rs 9,500 crore (June 2017) to this month's (January 2018) planned first waiver tranche of Rs 748 crore, to the final first actual waiver on January 7, 2018 of Rs 167.39 crore of only cooperative bank loans of selected farmers. 
 

From 10 lakh farmers who were to benefit, to the 1,60,783 farmers identified last month (December 2017) as being eligible for the first waiver tranche, to the finally selected 46,556 farmers from just five districts for January 7 largesse, Amarinder government's farm debt waiver has shrunk to a parody of its original. 
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In any fight for claiming space in public memory, the contest is often between the most impoverished and the highly equipped. The media is the arbiter of this contest. between a CM Royale and a praja that knows little about who the Patiala scion is.

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Nothing, however, diminished the enthusiasm of Amarinder's PR machinery which went ahead and decided that only a 6 feet long and 2 1/2 feet wide Parman Patar will do. Should we now adopt it as the official Maharaja size?

In any fight for claiming space in public memory, the contest is often between the most impoverished and the highly equipped. In a democratic society, one expects the media to be the arbiter of this contest. How, otherwise, would we have known about a woman who refused to vacate her seat in a bus in Montgomery, Alabama back in 1955?

That contest was on in Mansa on January 7. Between a Royale and a praja that knows little about who the Patiala scion is.

A team of dedicated research scholars wanted to know how much Punjab’s female farm labourers know about conditions and people who decide, impact, articulate, plan, decimate or ameliorate their lives. 
 

Dr Dharmpal, an assistant professor of Economics from GGDSD College, Kherri Gurna (Banur); Assistant Professor Jyoti; Prof Gurinder Kaur from Department of Geography, Punjabi University, Patiala; and Dr Veerpal Kaur, Assistant Professor from University College, Ghudda — all led by Dr Gian Singh, carried out a survey of 1,017 farm labour households.

Of the 408 households in rural areas in Malwa, 349 in Majha and 260 in Doaba that they surveyed, 95.28% women labourers had no interest in politics, 92.72% had not heard of the name Narendra Modi and 89.28% were not aware of a man called Amarinder Singh.

In the 29 villages that these researchers went to, there has not been a single graduate woman among farm labourers since 1947. It shouldn't take much to guess that there had not been one before 1947.

The contest for column inches of space in newspapers is between these two sides – one that comes up with a 6 feet long certificate, and the other whose dream is to stand at a labour chowk to augment her income.
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In the 29 villages that these researchers went to, there has not been a single graduate woman among farm labourers since 1947. It shouldn’t take much to guess that there had not been one before 1947.

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Journalists, news editors, editors, editor-in-chiefs are the arbitrators, the arbiters of this contest. 

My grouse is that they have been very unfair to some people. One of them is Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. In February last year, she was made to pay Rs 84 lakh as penal rent for illegally overstaying in a government accommodation – house number 46 in Sector 2, Chandigarh. It must have hurt her deep inside.

In September 2017, the Amarinder Singh government waived off that penal rent and paid her back Rs 84 lakh. 

Also Read: NO TIME TO READ THIS STORY? – That’s OK - Please do not feel guilty
 
No function was held, Gurdas Mann did not sing songs, PR machinery did not issue any ad, and no one cared to print a 6 feet x 3 feet Parman Patar for the most respectable Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

The people of Punjab must rise against this injustice. No one should be denied his or her dues. Next time, it must start from Mrs Bhattal.

Any Bharti Kisan Union activist daring to protest will not have my sympathy.
 

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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