Punjab CM appeals to farmers to shun agitation over debt waiver issue
Chandigarh, January 20: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has appealed to the state’s farmers to shun the path of agitation, saying his government could not afford to waive off any more of their debts at the present juncture, but was committed to alleviating all their woes at the earliest.
Despite the severe financial crunch faced by the state government, Punjab had waived off more debts of its farmers than the other states, the Chief Minister pointed out, urging the protesting farmers to appreciate the government’s efforts. Captain Amarinder cited the examples of Maharashtra (upto Rs 1.5 lakh), UP (upto Rs 1 lakh), Rajasthan (upto Rs 50000), MP (upto Rs 1 lakh) and Karnataka (upto Rs 50000) to point to the extent to which his government had stretched itself to fulfill this important promise of the Congress to the farming community.
The Chief Minister appealed to the farmers not to be misled by the opposition parties and some Kisan Unions, who were spreading false propaganda on the issue of farm debt waiver in order to promote their vested political interests. Considering the financial problems which his government had inherited from the Akalis, and also considering the lack of support on the issue from the central government, it was not possible, at present, to extend the debt waiver scheme to more farmers or to waive off more than Rs 2 lakh, said the Chief Minister.
The Chief Minister sought from the farmers more time to implement farm debt waiver in toto, saying his government was working towards reviving the state’s economy so that all sections of the society could be brought back on the track of development.
The thrust, at the moment, was on helping out the worst affected small and marginal farmers, said Captain Amarinder, adding that all the farmers would eventually be covered by the debt waiver scheme, once the state’s economy starts stabilizing. Observing that the state exchequer had a debt of Rs. 46,000 crore when he demitted office after his earlier stint, in 2007, the Chief Minister said that his government was reeling under a debt trap of over Rs. 2 lakh crore when it took over from the SAD-BJP government in 2017. This had prevented his government from full implementation of its farm debt waiver promise in one go, he added.
Nevertheless, of the 10.25 lakh farmers who are eligible to be covered under the debt waiver scheme announced by his government in its maiden budget, 5.63 lakh were slated to benefit in the first phase itself, he pointed out, adding that his government had somehow managed to generate Rs 2700 crores needed in this phase.
Unfortunately, however, the government was not in a position to garner more funds in the prevailing circumstances, and hence could not accept the demand of the farmers for total waiver. In fact, said Captain Amarinder, only the big ones among the 17.5 lakh farming families in the state had so far been left out of the waiver scheme, and they were the ones who were quite capable of taking care of themselves.
Noting that his government was promptly addressing all concerns of the farmers, the Chief Minister referred to the recent decisions to introduce self-certification and to exclude Income Tax payee government employees and retired pensioners in order to ensure that the real beneficiaries get the advantage of the scheme.
Reiterating his government’s commitment to the uplift of the beleaguered farmers, the Chief Minister pointed out that the state had witnessed record production this year, including of cotton, with timely procurement and payment for the first time in a decade. He further reiterated his assurance that all steps would be taken to ease the problems of the farmers, with even the farm labourers to be taken care of once the state’s fiscal condition stabilizes.