Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday announced total waiver of crop loans up to Rs 2 lakh of small and marginal farmers, and a flat Rs 2 lakh relief for all marginal farmers, irrespective of the loan amount.
The announcement has thus paved way for eventual total waiver of agricultural debts, which was a major poll promise of the Congress during the Punjab Assembly polls in March this year.
Speaking at the Assembly in Chandigarh, the chief minister noted the move would benefit 10.25 lakh farmers, including 8.75 lakh farmers up to 5 acres.
The initiative would provide double the relief announced by the states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, he said.
He said the decision was based on the interim report of the Expert Group headed by eminent economist T Haque which was tasked with suggesting ways and means to help the state's distressed farming community.
Opposition SAD and its ally BJP were not present in the House when the chief minister made the announcement as they had staged a walkout on another issue. However, the main opposition party AAP was present.
Taking a dig at the Akalis' absence, the Congress leader said they should have remained present in the House and listened him out when he was talking on an issue concerning farmers.
Making it clear that his government stood by its commitment to waive the crop loans of farmers, Amarinder said, "We want to make the farmers most prosperous in this country."
He said his 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.
"It has also been decided to raise the ex-gratia for suicide affected families to Rs 5 lakh from the existing Rs 3 lakh," he said.
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.
As per a The Times of India report, the waiver may cost an estimated Rs 24,000 crore to the debt-ridden state.
The waiver+ will cost the debt-ridden state Rs 24,000 crore, according to one estimate. Singh said his government had not decided on whether to take a fresh loan or generate more revenue for the purpose.(Feature image source: Reuters)