Assuring an early notification to implement the recent budget decision, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today said the farmers whose loans have been waived stood immediately exempt from repayment of their debts. He had in the recently-concluded budget session of the assembly 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. He had said the move would benefit a total of 10.25 lakh farmers, including 8.75 lakh farmers up to 5 acres.
Addressing a meeting of various farmers’ organisations here today, the chief minister said his government would continue to pressure the Centre for implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, on which all the farmers unions had expressed consensus as the “only “real long-term solution” to the problems of the peasants, an official spokesperson said here. Singh informed the meeting that the process of loan waiver, as announced in the budget, would start within two months.
He added that his government was committed to waiving the loans of the farmers, even though the state’s debt burden had turned out to be “much higher than anticipated”. A cabinet sub-committee has already been formed to speak to the ‘arthiyas’ (commission agents) to resolve the issue of non-institutional loans, the chief minister said, responding to concerns expressed on this count, the spokesperson said.
The chief minister also reaffirmed Punjab’s inability to share river water with other states, claiming that that if Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal comes up, then a whopping 10,000 acres of southern part of the state would “go dry”. He advocated continuous dialogue to resolve the festering issue and said Punjab’s water would not be allowed to be diverted to other states and a committee under the Finance Minister was working continuously to solve the problem.
Besides loans waiver, other issues discussed by the kisan unions who participated in the meeting included fixation of price of crops on recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report (MSP should be at least 50 per cent more than the weighted average cost of production), as well as compensation of Rs 10 lakh to farmers who committed suicide due to debt, job to one dependent member of family. Ownership rights to cultivators who have been cultivating Panchyati land since long, proper arrangements for stray animals as they cause damage to crops and a stop to acquisition of land without the consent of farmers were among the other key demands of the farmers’ organisations, the spokesman said.