Facing mounting pressure to honour poll promise of farm debt waiver, the Punjab government is likely to provide some relief for distressed farmers in the upcoming budget. With government-appointed expert panel exploring ways and means for debt waiver, the priority of the state government will be to first extend relief to small and marginal farmers. “There is going to be some provision in the budget with regard to relief (debt waiver for farmers)” a senior official said today. Opposition parties have been demanding from Amarinder Singh-led Congress government to fulfil poll promise of debt waiver in the wake of growing number of farmer suicides in the state. The political parties AAP and SAD-BJP coalition are planning to corner Congress-led government in the upcoming budget session on the issue of farmers’ suicides and debt waiver. The panel is in the process of collecting information about outstanding debt of farmers from banks, cooperative banks, official said. Besides, the expert group will also meet all the stakeholders including farmers to seek their opinion before suggesting ways and means for debt waiver, he said. The expert panel is also likely to meet the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on June 15 here to update him about the work done so far on the debt waiver. The budget session is scheduled to commence on June 14 and adjourn sine-die after the proposed legislative business on June 23. The state budget will be tabled on June 20.
Notably, Congress in its poll manifesto had promised to waive farm debt after coming to power. It had announced promise of ‘karza-kurki khatam (eliminate loan and auction), fasal di poori rakam’ (complete payment of crops). After coming to power, the state government formed an expert group under the chairmanship of T Haque, a former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, to assess the quantum of agricultural debt and suggest ways and means for farm debt waiver.
The Punjab cabinet had already given its formal nod to scrap ‘kurki’ (auction of mortaged land), by abolishing Section 67-A of Punjab Cooperative Societies Act 1961, which provides for ‘kurki’ to recover loans as arrears of land revenue. At present, the total agricultural debt in Punjab is pegged at Rs 85,000 crore. Out of which total loan to farmers including marginal and small growers was Rs 72,700 crore. The outstanding debt of small and marginal farmers was Rs 36,000 crore including Rs cooperative loan of Rs 5,000 crore.