Monthly Archives: JUNE 2017


PUNJAB TODAY LOAN WAIVER EXPLAINED
Amarinder sets "crop loan", "institutional" conditions for even suicide-affected families
19.06.17 - PT Bureau
Amarinder sets



CHANDIGARH: Coming up to meet the expectations of farm suicide-affected families merely half-way, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today announced that the government will take over "crop loans from institutional sources" that these families still owed.

In addition to the loan waiver relief for small and marginal farmers, capped at Rs 2 lakh, Amarinder Singh said on the floor of the Vidhan Sabha: "The 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."

Amarinder Singh's words clearly meant that the debt that such families owed to aarhtiyas or commission agents will not be covered under the government's scheme. Also, any debt incurred by a suicide-affected family for medical treatment or socio-religious purposes will not be taken over by the government.

He did propose that the Punjab Assembly Speaker may set up a panel which may visit such families and suggest ways to stem the tide of suicides.

While suicide victim families will now be paid Rs 5 lakh ex gratia grant, it was not clear whether it will take effect retrospectively, and from when.

In case of suicides that happened after Amarinder Singh government took over, and where the relief is yet to be paid, will the government now pay Rs 5 lakh?

If a family has already been paid Rs 3 lakh, will it be paid an additional Rs 2 lakh?

In case of suicide-affected families that have their entire loan, even if just a few thousand rupees, incurred from a commission agent, the government's announcements contained no relief.
 

Also read:
CM Amarinder Singh's LOAN WAIVER comes with Rs 2 lakh cap - Crop loans of up to Rs 2 lakh waived off, aarhtiya loan not covered; suicide relief now Rs 5 lakh. Only small, marginal farmers to get relief. Big farmers completely left out? 
https://goo.gl/PbHP6y 

 

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged. 
— Team PT





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AMARINDER IN VIDHAN SABHA
PUNJAB GOVT'S BIG DECISION ON LOAN WAIVER CAPPED AT Rs 2 LAKH
19.06.17 - Team PT
PUNJAB GOVT'S BIG DECISION ON LOAN WAIVER CAPPED AT Rs 2 LAKH



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.

 
Also Read:
 

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged. 
— Team PT




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FARM DEBT WAIVER
Expert Group fails to submit report, gets 2 months' extension; Interim Report on Monday
16.06.17 - PT Bureau
Expert Group fails to submit report, gets 2 months' extension; Interim Report on Monday



Chandigarh: The T. Haque-headed Expert Group on Punjab farm loan waiver has been given a two months' extension, top government sources confirmed today.

The Expert Group will also submit an interim report "very shortly" and sources said it could be as soon as Monday (June 19).

Sources also said the experts -- Dr Haque, former chairman, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; Dr Pramod Kumar Joshi, Director (South Asia), International Food Policy Research Institute and Dr BS Dhillon, V-C, PAU Ludhiana -- also met Chief Minister Amarinder Singh last night and had a "very frank and robust discussion."

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As per figures available, Punjab farmers have a debt of nearly Rs 74,000 crore, of which Rs 9,000 crore is owed to cooperative banks, Rs 12,000 crore to nationalised banks, and the rest to private banks and moneylenders.
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"The Chief Minister asked a number of questions and the experts also laid out some of their thinking," a source privy to the meeting told Punjab Today. 

The government has been under fire from the Opposition, both inside and outside the Assembly, for the delay in not just the promised farm loan waiver but also in the report of the Expert Group.

The expert group was constituted to assess the quantum of the agricultural debt and to suggest ways and means for a waiver. It was to submit its report within 60 days, a deadline that passed today (Friday, June 16).

Initially, the government was expected to make an announcement in the ongoing Budget Session of the Punjab Assembly about the farm loan waiver, a much hyped promise of the Amarinder Singh government and a near article of faith on the part of the Congress during electioneering.

That hope seems slim now but the government is nevertheless likely to announce some kind of a relief to try and stem the unrelenting spree of suicides in Punjab.

The opposition has been alleging that nearly 75 farmers have lost their lives since Amarinder Singh won the election on March 11.
 
The convenor of the expert group, Dr Balwinder Singh Sidhu, Commissioner and Director, Agriculture, Punjab, has been working overtime to ensure a timely outcome but the issue seems far more complex than waiver-promising politicians had initially fathomed. 

On Thursday, the Expert Group had met representatives of various farmer unions, bankers and political personalities. These meetings were followed up with a meeting with the chief minister.

 
Interestingly, Dr Haque, who was chosen to head the core group of experts, possibly owing to his closeness to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, clearly seemed to have a mind of his own, and is not turning out to be someone who minces his words.
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Experts' 2 hour-long meeting with CM Amarinder Singh last night saw, "Frank and robust" exchanges.
--------------
During the interaction with Punjab farmer union leaders, he corrected one leader, saying, "You should not use the term karza-muafi. Someone should seek a muafi (foregiveness) only if you have committed a wrong. You should prefer the term 'karzamukti' (salvation from indebtedness)."

At one stage, when the PAU V-C Dhillon asked farmer leaders where will the state manage funds from if a waiver is to be extended, Dr Haque snapped, "Why should we ask this? This is not the headache of farmers. It is for the government to find out."

As per figures available, Punjab farmers have a debt of nearly Rs 74,000 crore, of which Rs 9,000 crore is owed to cooperative banks, Rs 12,000 crore to nationalised banks, and the rest to private banks and moneylenders.
 
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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged. 
— Team PT




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Bir Devinder hits out at Amarinder, gets personal; Congress goes for the jugular
11.06.17 - punjab today bureau
Bir Devinder hits out at Amarinder, gets personal; Congress goes for the jugular



IN AN ugly spat about the rare sightings of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in Punjab, former Congressman Bir Devinder Singh castigated the Patiala MLA for his "colossal neglect" of the constituency, only to trigger a response from some party heavyweights who termed his "personal tirade" a sign of frustration in finding his way back into Congress.

While there has been little love lost between Amarinder Singh and Bir Devinder Singh, a former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha and someone known for his oratorial skills, today's exchange was particularly personal in nature, at times even bordering on the salacious.

Bir Devinder fired the first salvo, calling not only Amarinder’s "prolonged absence from Patiala a mockery of democratic values" but also referring to a particular woman friend and close associate of his. He alluded that Captain had more "commitment" towards this friendship but "a scant regard for his own people of Patiala."

Rattled by this direct attack, and clearly worried that it may find resonance among not just the opposition but also wider public, the Congress hit back, fielding heavyweights like Minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sukhjinder Randhawa, Harpratap Ajnala and Kewal Singh Dhillon who issued a joint statement to take up cudgels on behalf of the Chief Minister.

The media has been agog about reports of Amarinder's rather rare public engagements in the last 90 days since March 11, 2017.

But in a rather peculiar defence of Amarinder Singh, the Congress leaders claimed that "Captain Amarinder’s relationship with his constituents was his personal matter and of no concern to Bir Devinder."

It was not clear whether Amarinder Singh concurred with the view that an elected leader's relationship with the electorate and citizenry is a personal matter.
 
Bir Devinder, who has a history of skirmishes with Amarinder Singh, largely over the latter's working style, was expelled from the Congress party before the last Assembly polls. Not having to contend with any kind of party discipline, he is currently playing the role of a freelance opposition, his utterances often carrying more credibility than the established opposition.

Interestingly, the sharpest opposition that the Congress government and Amarinder Singh have been facing has come from individuals, such as MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira, than rival political parties.

The Punjab Congress leaders' statement called Bir Devinder "an unprincipled turncoat, who had lost all standing in Punjab’s political scenario and was not even remotely concerned with upholding democratic values or principles," but that did little to explain why the party went into an overdrive to counter the statement within hours in such shrill language.




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Government initiates free mortuary van services – Brahm Mohindra
11.06.17 - team pt
Government initiates free mortuary van services – Brahm Mohindra



Punjab Health Minister Brahm Mohindra today said that the state government has initiated a free of cost mortuary van services in the state.
 
Mohindra said that  all the government hospitals have been directed to provide mortuary van to family of deceased free of cost .  A form has got to be filled by the attendants to assess and keep in record whether the relatives/attendants of the deceased have adequate arrangement for transporting the dead body.
 
Minister also said that the It has been brought to the notice of state government that till now there was no provision  of providing  mortuary van in the government hospitals of state. He said that in case of unavailability of mortuary van, the family members were helpless and had to face a pathetic situation. He said that similar incident was noticed  in Jalandhar around one month ago, when a person carried his father's dead body on the rehri to go to his residence. 
 
After that when he enquired the hospital administration about this particular incident  and asked as to why hospital didn’t provide vehicle to family member of deceased. The Hospital administration told that there was no such  provision and neither the state government had ever issued order to provide the vehicle in such cases.
 
Taking a serious note of this unfortunate incident , Health Minister has issued required instructions in this regard  to transport the dead body to the residence of the deceased. He said that in case the relatives/ attendants of the dead person inform that they don’t have adequate arrangements then financial assistance up to Rs.500 would also be given to the  family for making arrangement for carrying the dead body from the outside ( private operator).
 
Mohindra also said that  in all the cases, a new white sheet free of cost for wrapping the dead body would be ensured.This would also be applicable in case of  unclaimed dead bodies brought by the police for postmortem. He said that all expenses i.e. financial assistance as well as cost of bed sheet would be borne from out of  the user charges of the hospital. In case, the hospital do not have adequate user charges, the funds would be provided from the emergency revolving fund of the PHSC on the reimbursement bases but immediately expenses have got to be made by the hospital, said Mohindra.       
 
He said he believed that this ambitious move of the state government will also inspire the others state to take action regarding availability of mortuary van in government hospitals.




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