Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today lashed out at the opposition for “twisting” the farm debt waiver issue and said the Rs 1,500 crore proposed in the budget was initial money provided to leverage more sum to be given for the debt waiver scheme in instalments. He made the statement while clarifying on issues in the Vidhan Sabha raised by the opposition with regard to the government’s farm debt waiver decision. Though a total sum of about Rs 9,500 crore, subject to final reconciliation of accounts, will be required to fully implement the debt waiver scheme, which would take about 4-5 years to settle with the banks, the farmers would be free from their debt immediately on notification of the scheme which is expected to take another 6-8 weeks, he said.
“We propose to take over the debt of the farmers covered under the scheme and make the payments to the banks directly in instalments,” he said. Reiterating his earlier announcement, made in the speech in the Vidhan Sabha on June 19, the chief minister said on the basis of an interim report submitted by the expert group headed by Dr T Haque, his government had decided to waive entire crop loans of small and marginal farmers (those with up to 5 acres of land) having loans up to Rs two lakh. This, he said, would provide a relief of total debt waiver to 8.75 lakh farmers, as per the data of the report of March 31, 2017 of state-level Bankers’ Committee.
He reaffirmed that his government has also decided to provide a relief of Rs 2 lakh to the remaining marginal farmers (those with up to 2.5 acres of land) irrespective of the amount of loan. “This will provide relief to additional 1.50 lakh marginal farmers,” he claimed. Singh pointed out that in all, about 10.25 lakh farmers will be benefited by this debt waiver as part of the initiative, which proposes double the relief provided by the states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. He said the government has now given 60 days’ time to the expert group to give its final report proposing the detailed scheme of debt waiver to these 10.25 lakh farmers.
On the farmers’ suicides issue, he said that it has been decided to waive the entire debt of their families which the government would bear. Referring to landless labourers, Singh said his government does not have any record or information either on their number or with regard to their outstanding debt. He also proposed that a 5-member committee be constituted by the Speaker to look into the issues of landless labourers and give its recommendations so that appropriate solution of their issues could also be found.