ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON SUICIDE-HIT BATS FOR AARHTIYAS
No aarhtiya can be named in an FIR in case of farmer suicide: Punjab Vidhan Sabha committee
- S Pal
No aarhtiya can be named in an FIR in case of farmer suicide: Punjab Vidhan Sabha committee



An officer of the rank of Superintendant of Police (SP) or higher must first investigate and find the real reason behind suicide, only then can any aarhtiya be named in the FIR, recommends the Assembly panel meant to help suicide-hit families.
 
IN A SHOCKING development, a Punjab Vidhan Sabha committee, tasked to find ways to help the farm suicide-affected families, has made a recommendation which will make it extremely difficult for any suicide-hit family to name in the FIR any aarhtiya who could have been badgering the farmer and considered responsible for driving him towards suicide.

"The Committee recommends that if in a case of suicide of a farmer, it becomes imperative (je kar…naubat aaundi hai) to file an FIR against the aarhtiya, then before filing the FIR, a police officer of minimum Superintendant of Police rank should first investigate the actual reason behind the suicide,” the recommendation made by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Committee said (page 43).

The panel, headed by Congress’ Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, tabled its report in the Punjab Assembly here on March 28, hours before the Assembly session came to a close. 
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Ironically, the committee itself concedes that it came across cases where aarhtiya had cheated the farmer and had gotten him to sign blank pages which were later used against the poor fellow and which eventually drove him to commit suicide.
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The bias of the committee in favour of aarhtiyas was, in fact, so blatant that it began by praising the role of the aarhtiyas and then painted them as the great saviours of the farmers.

"Kisana ate aarhtiyan da bahut purana ate nigha rishta hai. Purane samay ton hee aarhtiyan vallon kisana di har lorr di poorti layee vitti madad keeti jaandi rahi hai,” the committee’s final report said, and then minced no words in saying: "Committee vee eh mehsoos kardi hai ke kisana ate aarhtiyan da eh rishta baniya rehna chaheeda hai.”

(Translation: "The relationship between farmers and aarhtiyas is very old and warm. Since olden times, aarhtiyas have always been providing financial help to farmers for their every need. The committee also feels that this relationship between aarhtiyas and farmers must be continued.” – Ed.)

Clearly, this is a determined effort by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha’s panel to push for making it almost impossible for any aarhtiya to be named in an FIR regarding a farmer’s suicide, even though Punjab has seen many cases where farmers were driven to take the tragic step after being harassed by local aarhtiya-cum-money lender.
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BKU’s Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan: "This is exactly the same kind of attack on the right of the victim families as has been inflicted on the SC-ST community through a judgement of the Supreme Court.”
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Ironically, the committee itself concedes that it came across cases where aarhtiya had cheated the farmer and had gotten him to sign blank pages which were later used against the poor fellow and which eventually drove him to commit suicide.

It also acknowledged that farmer unions brought it to the notice of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha committee that aarhtiyas made farmers sign on blank stamp papers and blank cheques, and these documents are later used to show that the farmer had mortgaged his land in favour of the aarhtiya.

But then the Committee was quick enough to underline that the aarhtiya unions have informed it that their relationship with farmers was very sweet and, in fact, only some farmer unions were spreading wrong information about aarhtiyas

"The aarhtiyas demanded that an FIR against them should only be admitted after a proper inquiry since farmer unions were unduly presenting even natural deaths of farmers as suicides and were later blackmailing the aarhtiyas,” the Committee said (page43). 

While the Assembly panel was quick to recommend that no FIR be registered against any aarhtiya in a case of suicide without such a high level inquiry, it did not recommend a single inquiry into a single case of alleged blackmailing of any aarhtiya by any farmer union. It did not even cite a single case of such a blackmail. The Committee did not even claim that the arhtiyas had demanded a preliminary inquiry by an SP-rank officer, but it nevertheless went ahead and gave this massive relief to all such arhtiyas against whom suicide-hit families have been protesting.
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SC wants a DSP-rank officer to probe before booking an official under the SC-ST Act, but Punjab Vidhan Sabha panel wants an SP-rank officer to first find ‘real reasons’ behind a farmer’s suicide before booking an aarhtiya.  — BKU (Dakaunda) leader Jagmohan Uppal
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A number of farmer unions have taken strong exception to this move of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha panel.

"We always knew who the panel will favour, but they have been remarkably shameless in their approach. This is exactly the same kind of attack on the right of the victim families as has been inflicted on the SC-ST community through a judgement of the Supreme Court. Farmers and agriculture labourers need to fight with the same spirit with which the SC-ST sections are fighting against communal forces,” Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan of Bharti Kisan Union (Kokri Kalan) told Punjab Today.

The BKU leader recalled the case of farmer Mithu Singh of village Sandoha near Talwandi Sabo who had committed suicide. "The local arhtiya took away his cattle, tractor-trolley, household goods and even foodgrains meant for personal consumption, and it was this humiliation that finally led Mithu Singh to commit suicide. Endless dharnas followed and many protestors were injured in the lathicharge before police was forced to include the name of the arhtiya in the FIR. Now this Vidhan Sabha committee is making it official. It clearly shows whose side is the establishment on,” he said.
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Badal called it Nauhn Maas Da Rishta. Amarinder received the title of Fakhr-e-Quom from aarhtiyas. Farmer leaders & farm economists have been urging to end the aarhtiya system. The Punjab Vidhan Sabha committee paints them as saviour of farmers and has now made it almost impossible to name an aarhtiya in the FIR in case of a suicide.
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Bharti Kisan Union (Dakaunda) general secretary Jagmohan Singh Uppal said the Supreme Court has mandated an inquiry by a DSP-rank officer before booking an official in the SC-ST Act, but the Punjab Vidhan Sabha panel wants an SP-rank officer to first find ‘real reasons’ behind a farmer’s suicide before booking an aarhtiya. 
 

"The fact is that aarhtiyas are responsible for a large number of suicides in Punjab. In fact, most aarhtiyas are now money lenders, and not mere commission agents. We are approaching the courts to end the aarhtiya system, and here is a Punjab Vidhan Sabha committee protecting aarhtiyas accused of pushing farmers to commit suicide,” Jagmohan Singh Uppal told Punjab Today.

Badals, and the 'Fakhar-e-Qaum' CM of aarhtiyas

Parkash Singh Badal often says aarhtiyas have Nauhn Maas Da Rishta with farmers. Amarinder Singh echoed similar sentiments and even accepted the title of 'Fakhar-e-Qaum' from aarhtiyas. In fact, the title was conferred upon Amarinder Singh within hours of his appeal to the aarhtiyas not to charge exorbitant interest rates on loans they extend to farmers.
How and why does a CM become the Pride of Community?
Read this earlier story of Punjab Today. Click https://goo.gl/z7PTtD 
 
Amarinder Singh had received the honour in person at an event organised by the Federation of Aartiyas Association of Punjab at Kisan Bhawan in Chandigarh. It included a plaque, inscribed with the words 'Fakhar-e-Qaum.' 

Significantly, a study, titled "Commission Agent System in Punjab Agriculture,” carried out by Punjab Agricultural University's farm economist, Dr Sukhpal Singh, and Tejinder K Dhaliwal, had concluded that the time has come for the procurement agencies and government to deal directly with the farmers without the middleman called aarhtiya.

Former MP and Bharti Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann, now a staunch supporter of Amarinder Singh, had then said that not making payments directly to the farmer and involving aarhtiyas was "illegal, unethical and anti-social” policy. 
In stark contrast to the strong and well known views of most factions of BKU and other farmer unions on the need for aarhtiyas, Amarinder Singh is blatantly friendly towards the aarhtiyas, replicating the stance of his predecessor and political rival Prakash Singh Badal.

The so called "age old bonds" – nauhn-maas the rishta – was exactly the reason Badal had cited for not ending the aarhtiya system.
Amarinder, interestingly, had urged the commission agents not to charge unduly high interest rates to farmers, but the state government has no record of prosecution or action against any aarhtiya found doing so. 
 

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