Punjab announces loan waiver for small and marginal farmers
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday announced total waiver of entire crop loans up to Rs 2 lakh for small and marginal farmers (up to 5 acres), and a flat Rs 2 lakh relief for all other marginal farmers, irrespective of their loan amount.
Making the announcements during his speech in the Vidhan Sabha, Amarinder said the move would benefit a total of 10.25 lakh farmers, including 8.75 lakh farmers up to 5 acres. The initiative would provide double the relief announced by the states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, he pointed out. The decision is based on the interim report of the Expert Group, headed by eminent economist T Haque.
Amarinder said his government had also additionally decided to take over the outstanding crop loan from institutional sources of all the families of farmers who committed suicides in the state. It has also decided to raise the ex-gratia for suicide affected families to Rs 5 lakh from the existing Rs 3 lakh.
For debt relief to farmers for loans raised from non-institutional resources, 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, which shall be statutorily binding on both the parties, the lender and the borrower. The government has already constituted a cabinet sub-committee to review this act, he added.
Amarinder proposed that the speaker may constitute a five-member Committee of 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.
He informed the House that his government had already decided to repeal Section 67 A of the Punjab Cooperative Societies Act, 1961, which provides for auction/ kurki of farmers' land.
Targeting the previous Akali government for ruining the state's agriculture and farmers, the chief minister said the Badal regime accepted a loan of Rs 31,000 crore to cover the shortfall in the cash credit limit for procurement of foodgrains, for which his government has to pay Rs 270 crore every month and Rs 3240 crore annually. Had this not been done, his government would have utilized the additional Rs 31,000 crore amount also to benefit the farmers, he added.
Amarinder said there are about 18.5 lakh farming families in the state, and about 65% of them are small and marginal farmers, out of which about 70% have access to institutional finance. He said a state agriculture policy focusing on increase in farmers' income on a sustainable basis would be formulated soon.
He also announced a series of other measures to bring the agriculture sector back on track. These include an agriculture sustainability programme with focus on various initiatives to boost cultivation, growth and quality of crops, backed by attractive remuneration and greater incentives on alternative crops. Other measures include revamp of Farm Extension Services and a new legislation to regulate agriculture education.
Announcing the establishment of a Paddy Straw Challenge Fund to stop the practice of crop residue burning by the farmers, the chief minister informed the House that he had already written to the Prime Minister to allow a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal to all those farmers who incorporate the paddy straw in the soil instead of burning it, as the farmers need to be incentivized in this regard.