Giving further impetus to his government’s farmers’ debt relief scheme, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday gave debt relief against commercial bank loans to the tune of Rs 1771 crore for 1,09,730 eligible marginal farmers of four districts, and announced the extension of the waiver scheme to farmers with landholding of 2.5 to 5 acres.
The amount is being transferred directly to the accounts of the marginal farmers of commercial banks directly and the process will be completed by tomorrow, the Chief Minister said at a state-level function, where he symbolically handed over debt relief certificates to 25 farmers. The farmers covered in this phase belong to Patiala, Ludhiana, Sangrur and Fatehgarh Sahib districts.
Addressing the function, the Chief Minister said that in the next phase, farmers having landholding of 2.5 to 5 acres would get debt waiver towards both cooperative and commercial banks. Captain Amarinder also reiterated his commitment to waive off the loans of the landless labourers in the subsequent phases of the implementation of the waiver scheme.
The Chief Minister said waiver upto Rs. 2 lakh had been given to all the marginal farmers and also to the small farmers who had availed loan upto Rs. 2 lakh under the scheme. He said that a sum of Rs. 1815 crore of 3.18 lakh marginal farmers of Cooperative Banks had been waived off in the first phase, in addition to Rs. 1771 crore of 1.09 lakh marginal farmers of Commercial Banks in today’s State Level Debt Relief Function.
The Chief Minister announced that as many as 2.15 lacs small farmers of Cooperative Banks would be covered in the 3rd phase, while 50752 small farmers of Commercial Banks would be covered in the 4th phase.
Underlining the need to export sugar and potatoes to Central Asian countries, the Chief Minister said that he had written to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to include these items in the export list, which was cleared just yesterday. If the Government of India allows Punjab to export these products, sugarcane and potato farmers of the state would be immensely benefitted, he added.
Captain Amarinder expressed concern about the problem of spurious seeds, agri-chemicals and other inputs that reach the farmers and said his government was maintaining a strict, 24X7 vigil to check sale of such products. He disclosed that a special campaign to ensure balanced use of fertilizers had led to reduction in Urea and DAP consumption by 1 lac MT and 46,000 tons respectively during Kharif-2018 as compared to the previous year. This, he said, resulted in net saving of about Rs. 200 crores.
Captain Amarinder Singh said that a campaign was launched to educate the farmers about judicious use of agro-chemicals on Basmati. The use of five pesticides, viz Acephate, Carbadazim, Triazophos, Thiamethoxam and Tricyclazole, had been discouraged during Kharif-2018. As a result, the quality of Basmati grain had started meeting international standards and resultantly, farmers were getting better prices of Basmati. This year, farmers are getting Rs. 3600-4000 per quintal as against Rs. 2600-3000 last year, he added.
Reiterating his commitment to the seamless procurement of crops, the Chief Minister said that his government had ensured hassle-free procurement of Paddy in spite of unprecedented heavy rains at the end of September. Till now, more than 187 lac tonns of paddy had been procured.
Captain Amarinder Singh said that the state, in collaboration with experts from Israel and PAU, would lay special focus on water conservation so that this precious natural resource could be conserved.
In his address, Mandi Board Chairman Lal Singh lashed out at the previous SAD-BJP for devastating the state’s economy and bringing Punjab under enormous debt burden. Due to the misdeeds and visionless policies of SAD-BJP government during its decade long rule, the outstanding debt had increased more than fourfold, to Rs. 2,08000 crore, by the time their term ended.
Health Minister Brahm Mohindra said that the pace of development in the state had been accelerated under the visionary approach of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. He said the Chief Minister would soon introduce cashless Health Insurance for 43 lakh families in the state, which would prove to be another milestone in the healthcare of common masses.
Former Union Minister Preneet Kaur lauded the Punjab Government for taking its prestigious debt relief programme to next level. She said the state was committed to holistic and all round development of all sections of the society.
Member Parliament and PPCC Chief Sunil Jakhar Sunil Jakhar said that the Chief Minister had shown the way to other State Governments and the Centre on how to waive off farmers’ debts. He said that the Chief Minister had promoted welfare of the farmers through the debt waiver scheme and fulfilled his poll promise to them.
Lambasting Akali leader Sukhbir Singh Badal for ridiculing the debt relief programme of the state government, Jakhar said that they should introspect first on their own deeds of 10 years.
He said that Punjab had witnessed a steep decline in the number of farmer suicides, which was nearly 1000 in a year during the SAD-BJP rule but had had now come down to 250-300 due to the pro-farmer initiatives of the Captain Amarinder Government.
Earlier, MLA Hardyal Singh Kamboj said that this initiative would go a long way towards transform the farming sector.