May 18, 2018 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Chandigarh: Punjab government’s requests for Centre’s support for extending helping hands to debt-burdened farmers of the state is falling to deaf ears. Yet, Punjab CM seems to be hopeful that the Centre would listen to his pleas.
According to a release issued by Punjab CM’s office on May 17, Captain Amarinder Singh has once again urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce one-time debt relief to ameliorate the miseries of the farming community.
In a letter to Narendra Modi, the Amarinder Singh has sought immediate intervention of the Government of India to avoid any socio-economic unrest in the rural areas.
“Despite repeated requests from the state government for a national-level debt waiver scheme for farmers, the response so far has not been encouraging, said the Chief Minister, urging a one-time relief to ensure that their livelihood is not compromised in any way”, reads the statement.
With continued debt stress, the number of farmers’ suicides is increasing and there is widespread resentment amongst them, said the Chief Minister, stressing the need for immediate attention to the issue by the central government.
Captain Amarinder Singh has requested that the issue of agriculture loan waiver at India level be considered on priority, to reduce the miseries of farmers, thereby making agricultural sector more resilient and the economy more resurgent.
The Chief Minister pointed out that the state government, on its part, had decided to provide an “institutional (crop) loan waiver” of Rs.2 lakh to all the marginal and small farmers, having availed loan up to Rs.2 lakh, and a relief of Rs.2 lakh to marginal farmers having outstanding loans of more than Rs.2 lakh. This, he said, would provide a relief of total debt waiver of approximately Rs.9500 crore to 8.75 lakh farmers having about 10.21 lakh crop loan accounts. So far, an amount of Rs.999.67 crore had been disbursed as relief to about 2.02 lakh farmers, he added.
The initiative, wrote Captain Amarinder Singh, will contribute a bit in checking the distress, but to help in putting agriculture sector on a path of high trajectory growth and development with an assurance of better quality living for the farmers of our country, a one-time agriculture debt waiver for farmers at the national level was essential.
Though the Centre did not pay any heed to such pleas in the past, the Punjab CM once against cited “the contribution of the farmers of Punjab to India’s Food Security”.
In Punjab, these farmers adopted new technologies supported by appropriate policies and complemented with investments and institutional infrastructure by the State to achieve an all-time high production and productivity of food grains, the Chief Minister further pointed out. However, the production potential of the available technology of these crops had now been fully exploited and there was now near stagnation in growth.
Notably, this plea had received an insulting reply from the Vice Chairman of India’s NITI Aayog who had told CM Capt. Amarinder Singh and Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal to leave the issue of food security to the Centre now.
The Chief Minister further cited the climatic aberrations of the last 3-4 years as cause of further aggravation of the farmers’ economic condition. Due to drought during kharif 2014, the farmers had to incur an additional expenditure to raise their paddy crop. The untimely rains during rabi 2014-15 seriously impacted the productivity of wheat and the farmers suffered a yield loss of 10-15%, he recalled. Again, during 2015 kharif season, the cotton crop was devastated by attack of white fly and the potato, sugarcane and basmati growers were affected by the low market prices, Captain Amarinder Singh pointed out.
Captain Amarinder Singh said the increase in MSP during this period had also not kept pace with increase in cost of agricultural inputs. Consequently, the debt burden of the farmers had gone up manifold and the economic distress was manifesting in terms of their suicides, he added.
Though the Government of India had started a well-intentioned programme to double the flow of institutional credit to agriculture in three years in 2003-04, in the process of meeting the targets, the bankers made a liberal lending, sometimes even ignoring the economic viability and banking ethics, the Chief Minister pointed out. As a result, he said, the outstanding advance of the banks towards the Punjab farmers, as on 31-03-2017, had increased to about Rs.72771 crore, which was more than the State’s GDP from agriculture.