Debt waiver: Rs 29 crore given to 7,213 farmers in second phase

By Times Of India on 03 May 2018 | read
BATHINDA: With an aim to fulfilling its promise of providing farm debt waiver of nearly Rs 10,000 crore to over 10 lakh farmers in Punjab, state finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal on Wednesday started the second phase of the scheme from here. The debt waiver of Rs 29.17 crore was provided to 7,213 farmers of the district.
In the first phase, debt waiver of Rs 830 crore was provided to 1.68 lakh farmers of the state by organising four state-level functions. The state government has announced to provide assistance to 10.25 lakh farmers by September for which an allocation of Rs 4,250 crore has been kept in the 2018-19 budget. Manpreet claimed that the rest of the amount would be raised by taking loans from banks or financial institutions but farmers would be provided waiver of nearly Rs 10,000 crore. “Of this debt, the share of cooperative banks was Rs 4,000 crore while that of private and nationalised banks was nearly Rs 6,000 crore. Earlier, the data of private banks was not available,” he said.

The Punjab finance minister demanded from the Union government a similar package, which it was planning for Maharashtra. According to reports, a package of Rs 13,650 crore is being given to Maharashtra over five years to address agrarian distress in the state. He said that, “Despite the harsh economic conditions, Punjab government is committed to providing debt relief to farmers. For this, the state government is raising loans. We also know that debt relief of up to Rs 2 lakh is not enough as farmers are in big trouble.”

He further said that there were nearly 17 lakh farmer families in Punjab and of those nearly 14 lakh were cultivators and the rest took land on lease. Of the 14 lakh cultivators, the state government is providing relief to 10.25 lakh, who own up to five acres. The minister said that they had noticed farm suicides in cotton growing areas across India and similar was the case with Punjab, where maximum suicides had taken place in Malwa region. He said a team of MLAs visited suicide-hit families and found overspending on social needs as one of the reasons for the farmers taking the extreme step. “The committee has handed over the report and a viable solution to suicides will be discussed in the assembly,” said Manpreet.

‘Sir Chhotu Ram reborn’

While equating Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh with peasant leader of pre-Independence India Sir Chhotu Ram, Manpreet said he had stopped the SYL canal water from flowing out of the state. “By providing debt relief to farmers, Amarinder has proved that Sir Chhotu Ram has been reborn in Punjab after 70 years. The latter was champion of the causes of peasants and similarly Amarinder was working for the farmers,” said Manpreet.

Anganwari workers hold protest

Bathinda: Nearly a hundred anganwari workers and helpers managed to reach the community centre here on Wednesday, where Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal was to hand over debt relief certificates to farmers while starting the second phase of the debt waiver scheme. Anganwari workers have been protesting for the last 93 days outside Manpreet’s office near the multipurpose sports stadium in Bathinda, demanding revision of wages and that children of up to 3 years of age may be allowed into anganwari centres.

There are 54,000 anganwari workers and helpers in Punjab. The workers get Rs 5,000 per month as wages while helpers get Rs 2,800 per month.

The police personnel were surprised when the anganwari workers reached the debt relief disbursal venue. They locked the gate of the community centre and workers started raising slogans outside. Some of them succeeded in scaling the boundary wall to be in the community centre. Manpreet had not reached the venue when the workers held the protest. When asked about the protest, the finance minister said, “It is a scheme of the Union government. We already had raised the wages but now the workers want further revision, which is not in the state government’s purview. Despite that the government will look into their demand.”