The Punjab government on Saturday announced the setting up of an Expert Group to assess the quantum of agricultural debt and suggests ways and means for its waiver. The group has been set up in line with the Congress’ promise in its election manifesto that farmers in the agrarian state will be given a debt waiver.
Former Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), T. Haque, has been appointed chairman of the Expert Group, which has been asked to submit its report within 60 days.
The two other members of the Group are Pramod Kumar Joshi, Director, South Asia, of the International Food Policy Research Institute, and B.S. Dhillon, Vice Chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana.
“Besides assessing the total amount of credit, including institutional and non-institutional credit availed by different categories of farmers, the group will assess the quantum of bad loans or debt and suggest the methodology for remission of debt. It will also suggest ways and means to raise resources for the debt waiver, according to the notification,” a state government spokesman said here.
The Expert Group may co-opt any other member, if so required, to achieve its objectives, in order to facilitate the state government’s efforts to ameliorate the sufferings of the farmers.
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Punjab’s opposition Shiromani Akali Dal meanwhile termed the exercise of setting up of an expert group as futile, saying that all facts and details of the debt of farmers was already available with the government.
The Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have been demanding that the Congress government led by Amarinder Singh should immediately announce ther debt waiver for farmers, as promised in the Congress manifesto.