The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today said it was condemnable that chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh was “requesting” commission agents not charge exorbitant interest after giving them the go ahead to charge an annual interest of 18 per cent and even urging them to approach a three member ministerial committee to “rationalize” (increase) interest rates further.Terming such a compromise with the Arhatiya community at a time when indebted farmers were committing suicide across the State as unbefitting of the high office Amarinder was holding, SAD mp and secretary general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said an impression had been given that the chief minister was more interested about safeguarding the interest rates of Arhatiyas than protecting the rights of farmers. “Farmers were expecting you to tell arhatiyas that the State government will take ownership for all farmer loans taken from them as you had announced before the elections. Instead of doing this you chose to tell them that the current system will continue. The SAD has nothing against Arhatiyas and understands the vital role they play in Punjab’s rural economy.
However the SAD stands for giving relief to farmers at this crucial juncture. This could have been easily done by lowering Arhatiya loan interest rates besides announcing a time frame for complete waiver of all loans taken from commission agents”, the Akali leader added.Terming the meeting with the Arhatiya Associations as an eyewash, Mr Dhindsa said if Amarinder was serious about protecting the interests of farmers he could easily taken official steps to bring down interest rates being charged by Arhatiyas which were much beyond those charged by banks. “Instead of doing this, the CM cut a sorry figure while requesting and cajoling commission agents not to charge high interest rates besides telling them to throw those doing so out of the community. Why couldn’t Amarinder say he would throw Arhatiyas charging exorbitant rates in jail?”The SAD leader said the meeting had proved that the chief minister had reneged on a solemn promise made to the farming community to get all loans taken from commission agents waived by paying the same from the State account. He said the government had also requested commission agents to make pass books of farm loans. “From this it was clear that the government does not even have any plan to waive off these loans in the future. Amarinder must tell farmers why he lied to them and backstabbed them”, the Akali leader added.