Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today launched his government’s farm debt-waiver scheme here and slammed opposition parties and some kisan unions for spreading a “false propaganda” on the issues faced by farmers. Singh symbolically handed over waiver certificates to 10 farmers from Mansa, Bathinda, Faridkot, Muktsar and Moga districts, where nearly 47,000 farmers would benefit from the scheme. He said a total of 5.63 lakh farmers would benefit in the state during the first phase, which will provide relief to the tune of Rs 2,700 crore. Farm debt waiver was one of the key promises of the Congress ahead of the February polls in the state. Then Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had during the election campaign described Singh’s promise of waiving farmers’ debt if the Congress comes to power, as an “election stunt”.
Launching the scheme today, Singh referred to reports in a section of the media about a suicide by a farmer in Barnala. The farmer reportedly killed himself on Friday night after allegedly finding that his name was missing from the first list of eligible farmers for debt waiver. The chief minister denied any such suicide on account of non-inclusion of the farmer’s name in the list from Barnala, and suggested that it was a “false propaganda” allegedly being spread by the Akali Dal, the AAP and a few kisan unions. “The fiscal crisis being faced by the state was much graver than the Congress had envisaged before the elections,” he said, adding that even then Punjab has announced a higher loan waiver than UP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, MP and Karnataka.
Acknowledging that some farmers might have been left out due to technical errors, Singh said issues were being resolved and complainants should approach their respective SDMs or DCs. He said 10.25 lakh farmers were being covered under the scheme, which only left out the bigger farmers. Punjab has 17.5 lakh farming families, according to the government.
The loan waiver process would be completed in four phases, Singh said, adding his government would find ways to make it happen “despite not getting any help from the Centre”. Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar alleged that former chief minister Badal was resorting to “dirty politics over the debt waiver issue”. “Badal had tried to mislead people saying Singh will not fulfil this particular promise and is now trying to cover up his embarrassment by saying Rs 2 lakh is not enough for farmers,” he said. Unlike other parties, the Congress does not indulge in ‘jumley ki rajneeti’ (politics of rhetoric), he added. “In fact, Parkash Singh Badal should congratulate the chief minister and offer to support the ruling party’s efforts to seek waiver from the central government,” Jakhar said.