Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday lashed out at the BJP-led central government for failing to come to the rescue of the beleaguered farmers and said that farmer suicides will continue in Punjab and other states if Centre does not give up its apathy to the farming community.Launching the third phase of his government’s farm debt waiver scheme, the Chief Minister lambasted the Centre over its continued indifference to the woes of the farmers. The states cannot do everything on their own, without the central government’s help, he said, acknowledging that the loan waiver scheme announced by his government was not enough to alleviate all the sufferings of the farmers in the state. With loan amounts of many farmers more than what his government was currently waiving off, their plight continued to be acute, said Captain Amarinder.Pointing out that his government had inherited a huge Rs. 2.08 lakh crore debt, the Chief Minister said the loan waiver scheme was the best he could have done in the circumstances especially considering the lack of support from the Centre and non-implementation of the Swaminathan report. Even the prime minister and the finance minister, whom he had personally met to seek help for the farmers several times, had failed to realise the criticality of the situation and had implemented only a small part of the Swaminathan report, he said, demanding in toto implementation of the recommendations of the committee.
His government’s loan waiver scheme was only a temporary solution to the problems of the distressed farmers and the Centre had to step in if a permanent solution had to be found, Captain Amarinder Singh asserted. Meanwhile, however, he said the state government would continue to find ways of helping the farmers, including diversification initiatives. His government would also soon come out with a loan waiver scheme for the landless labourers, who were also reeling under huge debt burdens, the Chief Minister announced.Captain Amarinder Singh also hit out at the Centre for failing to provide compensation to farmers against stubble burning, which was one of the causes for air pollution in the state. He, however, categorically denied Punjab’s responsibility for pollution in Delhi, which he attributed to local reasons in the national capital.
Earlier, the Chief Minister handed over debt relief certificates to some of the beneficiaries to mark the launch of the third phase of the debt waiver scheme, in which Rs. 1009 crore is being waived off for the benefit of 1.42 lakh small farmers of Cooperative Banks. As many as 2413 farmers of Ropar District got debt waiver certificates to the tune of Rs. 17.74 Crore.The fourth phase of the scheme would also be launched soon to benefit 18000 small farmers of Commercial Banks, the Chief Minister announced.Captain Amarinder Singh pointed out that his government had already provided debt relief of Rs 1815 crore to 3.18 lakh marginal farmers of Cooperative Banks, besides benefitting 1.04 lakh marginal farmers of Commercial Banks with a debt relief of Rs 1689 crore. Talking about the initiatives being taken by his government to check the menace of stubble burning in the state, the Chief Minister said under mission ‘Tandarust Punjab’, the State, in collaboration with PAU Ludhiana, had launched a massive awareness drive to sensitise farmers about the ill effects of residue burning. He said that Rs. 250 crore had been spent for subsidizing 27500 Crop Residue Management Machines at a subsidy of 50% in case of individual farmers and 80% in case of farmers groups and Cooperative Societies. He also announced that Rs. 400 crore would be spent to provide 40000 more crop residue management machines to the farmers next year.The Chief Minister said a special campaign had also been initiated to ensure balanced use of fertilizers, which has led to reduction in Urea and DAP consumption by 1 lac MT and 46,000 tons respectively during Kharif-2018, thereby resulting in net savings of about Rs. 200 crores. The state is fully vigilant by maintaining 24X7 strict surveillance to check sale of spurious seeds, agro-chemicals and other agricultural inputs, he added.With the concerted efforts of the State Government to educate farmers about judicious use of agro-chemicals on Basmati for improving the standard of Basmati crop, the Chief Minister said that the Basmati produced in the state had started meeting international standards and farmers were getting better prices. He said that this year farmers were getting Rs. 3600-4000 per quintal as against Rs. 2600-3000 last year.
Lauding the Mandi Board for launching E-Nam project, the Chief Minister said that E-Nam was launched in 19 Mandis with an objective of providing competitive and remunerative prices to farmers for their produce through online competitive bidding process and 16 more markets would be upgraded in the near future.Assuring the farmers of seamless wheat procurement in the ensuing season too, the Chief Minister said that food grains in the last four crops had been procured without any hassle to the farmers.Referring to the development programmes of his government, the Chief Minister said Rural Road Infrastructure was being strengthened, as part of which repair of 16000 km out of a total of 61,000 km Rural Link Roads would be completed by June 30 this year at a cost of Rs 2000 crore, besides repair and upgradation of bridges on Rural Link roads at a cost of Rs. 200 crore. He said that a sum of Rs. 700 crore was being spent by Punjab Mandi Board for upgradation of infrastructure of all grain and vegetable markets in Punjab to provide better marketing facilities to farmers.The Chief Minister also announced that in the second phase, 14000 km rural link roads would be repaired at a cost of Rs. 1400 crore, which would be completed by June 2020. The additional roads requiring repair would be repaired at a cost of Rs. 750 crores by December 2020, with another Rs. 200 crore to be spent on repair and upgradation of rural link road bridges, on which work had already started and would be completed by December 2020.Prominent amongst those present on the occasion included Speaker Punjab Vidhan Sabha Rana K.P. Singh, Technical Education Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, Media Advisor to CM Raveen Thukral, District Congress Unit President Barinder Singh Dhillon, former MLA Lov Kumar Goldy, Principal Secretary Irrigation Sarvjit Singh, Secretary Cooperation Vikas Garg, Secretary Agriculture Kahan Singh Pannu and Commissioner Rupnagar Division R.K. Kaushik.