The chief minister urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce a one-time debt relief to ameliorate miseries of the farming community.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today claimed the response of the Centre on the state government's repeated requests for a debt waiver scheme had "not been encouraging" and sought its immediate attention to the farmers' plight to "avoid any socio-economic unrest". The chief minister urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce a one-time debt relief to ameliorate miseries of the farming community.
Expressing serious concern over the deteriorating condition of farmers and the unabated farmer suicides, the chief minister, in a letter to the prime minister, sought immediate intervention of the Centre to "avoid any socio-economic unrest" in the rural areas.
"Despite repeated requests from the state government for a national-level debt waiver scheme for farmers, the response so far has not been encouraging," he said.
With continued debt stress, the number of farmer suicides is increasing and there is widespread resentment amongst them, he added.
Singh requested that the issue of agriculture loan waiver at national level be considered on priority thereby making agricultural sector more resilient and the economy more resurgent.
The chief minister pointed out that the state government, on its part, had decided to provide an institutional loan waiver of Rs two lakh to all the marginal and small farmers, having availed loan up to Rs two lakh, and a relief of Rs two lakh to marginal farmers having outstanding loans of over Rs two lakh.
This, he said, would provide a relief of total debt waiver of approximately Rs 9,500 crore to 8.75 lakh farmers having about 10.21 lakh crop loan accounts. So far, an amount of Rs 999.67 crore had been disbursed as relief to about 2.02 lakh farmers, he added.
Citing the contribution of the farmers of Punjab to the national food security, the chief minister said they had raised productivity and production of wheat and rice in a record time during the green revolution.
In Punjab, these farmers adopted new technologies supported by appropriate policies and complemented with investments and institutional infrastructure by the state to achieve an all-time high production and productivity of food grains, he pointed out.
However, the production potential of the available technology of these crops had now been fully exploited, he added.
The chief minister cited the climatic aberrations of the last three-four years as cause of further aggravation of the farmers' economic condition.
Due to drought during kharif 2014, the farmers had to incur an additional expenditure to raise their paddy crop. The untimely rains during Rabi 2014-15 seriously impacted the productivity of wheat and the farmers suffered a yield loss of 10-15 per cent, he recalled.
Again, during 2015 kharif season, the cotton crop was devastated by attack of white fly and the potato, sugarcane and basmati growers were affected by the low market prices, he said.
Singh said the increase in MSP during this period had also not kept pace with increase in cost of agricultural inputs.
Though the Centre had initiated a well-intentioned programme to double the flow of institutional credit to agriculture in three years, in the process of meeting the targets, the bankers made a liberal lending, sometimes even ignoring the economic viability and banking ethics, he said.As a result, he said, the outstanding advance of the banks towards the Punjab farmers, as on March 2017, had increased to about Rs72,771 crore, which was more than the state's GDP from agriculture.