Punjab To Waive Crop Loans Of 8.75 Lakh Small And Marginal Farmers
A farmer holds rice paddy for photograph at an Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) wholesale market in Jalandhar, Punjab. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Punjab To Waive Crop Loans Of 8.75 Lakh Small And Marginal Farmers

  • Punjab announces complete waiver of crop loans of 8.75 lakh small and marginal farmers.
  • The government will waive crop loans to the tune of Rs 2 lakh for small and marginal farmers.
  • It will also provide a flat Rs 2 lakh relief to all marginal farmers, irrespective of the loan amount.
  • The decision comes in the wake of similar announcements made by Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday announced a complete waiver of crop loans of 8.75 lakh small and marginal farmers. The decision comes in the wake of similar announcement made by the Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra state governments in order to ease the burden of the distressed and debt-ridden farmers.

The state government announced total waiver of crop loans to the tune of Rs 2 lakh of small and marginal farmers as well as a flat Rs 2 lakh relief to all marginal farmers, irrespective of the loan amount.

Waiver of agricultural debts was a major poll promise of the Congress during the Punjab Assembly polls in March this year.

Speaking at the Punjab Assembly, the chief minister noted the move would benefit 10.25 lakh farmers, including 8.75 lakh farmers with land holdings of up to 5 acres.

The initiative would provide double the relief announced by the states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, he said. The decision was based on the interim report of an expert group headed by eminent economist T Haque which was tasked with suggesting ways and means to help the state's distressed farming community.

Punjab To Waive Crop Loans Of 8.75 Lakh Small And Marginal Farmers

Other Relief Measures

The state government had also decided to take over the outstanding crop loans from institutional sources of the families of farmers who committed suicide in the state, Amarinder Singh said. "It has also been decided to raise the ex-gratia for suicide affected families to Rs 5 lakh from the existing Rs 3 lakh."

As debt relief to farmers for loans raised from non-institutional resources, the government has decided to review the Punjab Settlement of Agriculture Indebtedness Act, 2016 to "provide the desired relief to farmers through mutual acceptable debt reconciliation and settlement, which shall be statutorily binding on both the parties--the lender and the borrower."

The government has already constituted a Cabinet Sub-committee to review the Act, he added.

The chief minister proposed that the Speaker constitute a five-member committee of Vidhan Sabha to visit the families of the suicide victims, ascertain the reasons for the extreme step and suggest steps to check this menace forever. His government had decided to repeal Section 67 A of the Punjab Cooperative Societies Act, 1961, which provides for auction of farmers land, Singh added.

He reiterated the Congress government's commitment to provide free power to farmers but appealed to all big and well-to-do farmers of the state to give up power subsidy voluntarily.

Citing various studies, the Punjab chief minister said there were about 18.5 lakh farming families in the state, and about 65 percent of them were small and marginal farmers, out of which about 70 percent had access to institutional finance.

Announcing more farmer-friendly steps, he said a State Agriculture Policy focusing on increase in farmers' income on a sustainable basis would be formulated soon.

The chief minister also announced a series of other measures to bring agriculture sector back on track like an agriculture sustainability programme focusing on various initiatives to boost cultivation, growth and quality of crops, backed by attractive remuneration and greater incentives on alternative crops.

Other measures include revamp of Farm Extension Services and a new legislation to regulate agriculture education.

Announcing the establishment of a Paddy Straw Challenge Fund to stop the practice of crop residue burning by the farmers, Amarinder informed the House that he had already written to the prime minister to allow a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal to all those farmers who incorporate the paddy straw in the soil instead of burning it.

Reiterating his government's resolve to not allow the Centre to "tinker with the crop MSP system", he urged the Central government to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission and provide price support by way of deficiency pricing for maize and other crops for which MSP was fixed by them.

He also announced his government's decision to computerise all the operations in the state under the 'End to End Computerisation of Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) operations' scheme to ensure leakage/diversion free distribution of subsidised food grains to eligible beneficiaries.

The identified beneficiaries will be issued Smart Ration cards and ration will be distributed through Point of Sale devices using bio-metric authentication, he said.

The chief minister further reiterated his commitment towards the promotion of horticulture to help in crop diversification and boost farmers' income and announced a slew of initiatives for the same.

It has also been decided to establish a Price Stabilisation Fund to save farmers from the vagaries of markets, particularly in the case of perishable commodities such as fruits and vegetables, he added.

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