The Punjab government today said it cannot extend the debt waiver scheme to all farmers or waive more than Rs 2 lakh due to lack of support from the Centre coupled with bad finances inherited from the Akali dispensation. Appealing the state’s farming community to shun protest, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, in a release, said his government could not afford to waive any more of their debts at the present juncture, but was committed to alleviating all their woes at the earliest. He said his government had waived more debts of its farmers than other states. Citing the examples of Maharashtra (upto Rs 1.5 lakh waiver), Uttar Pradesh (upto Rs 1 lakh waiver), Rajasthan (upto Rs 50,000 waiver), Madhya Pradesh (upto Rs 1 lakh waiver) and Karnataka (upto Rs 50,000 waiver), the Congress leader pointed out the extent to which his government had stretched itself to fulfil this important promise of the ruling party to the farming community.
Singh also appealed to the farmers not to be misled by the opposition parties and some Kisan unions, who were spreading “false propaganda” on the issue of farm debt waiver. “Considering the financial problems which my government had inherited from the Akalis, and also considering the lack of support on the issue from the central government, it is not possible, at present, to extend the debt waiver scheme to more farmers or to waive more than Rs 2 lakh,” the chief minister said in the release. The thrust, he said, was on helping small and marginal farmers, adding that all farmers would eventually be covered under the debt waiver scheme once the state’s economy started stabilising. Singh clarified that the state exchequer had a debt of Rs 46,000 crore when he demitted office after his earlier stint in 2007. He said his government was reeling under a debt trap of over Rs 2 lakh crore when the Congress took over from the SAD-BJP government last year.
“This has prevented the Congress government from the full implementation of its farm debt waiver promise in one go,” he said. Nevertheless, of the 10.25 lakh farmers eligible to be covered under the debt waiver scheme announced by the Amarinder Singh-led government in its maiden budget, 5.63 lakh farmers are slated to benefit in the first phase itself, the release said, adding that the state government had somehow managed to generate Rs 2,700 crore for the first phase. Noting that his government was promptly addressing all concerns of the farmers, the chief minister referred to the recent decisions to introduce self-certification and exclude income tax payee government employees and retired pensioners to ensure that only real beneficiaries got the advantage of the scheme.