Even as he sought modification in the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY), Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to consider agriculture loan waiver at national level on priority, as a one-time solution to help the distressed farmers.In two separate letters, underlining the need to safeguard the interests of Punjab’s farmers, the Chief Minister has stressed that a one-time agriculture debt waiver for farmers at the national level was essential, while calling for PMFBY modifications to make the pro-farmer initiative more effective in transforming the rural economy.The relief given by the Punjab government from its limited resources was not adequate and needed to be supplemented by the Government of India, he said in his letter seeking the loan waiver on a national level. He pointed out that this farmer friendly initiative would not only contribute to a large extent in reducing the distress but would also help in putting agriculture sector on a path of high growth trajectory and development with an assurance and hope of better quality living for the farmers of the country. The Government of India should bite the bullet once and for all, he said, adding that it was widely acknowledged that most of these 'Anndattas' of the country were facing severe debt stress, as a result of which some of them had even taken the extreme step of ending their lives by committing suicides. He emphasized the need to rectify the situation, not with slow and small measures but with carefully thought-out steps to mitigate their distress and improve their living conditions.Captain Amarinder apprised Modi that the state government alone provided a debt relief of Rs. 2 lakh to all the marginal farmers who had availed institutional loan and the small farmers with loans up to Rs.2 lakh.
As many as 5.52 lakh farmers have been provided a debt relief of Rs. 4468 crore so far, and the remaining would be provided the entitled relief under the scheme in the near future. While the recent initiatives of the central government, including financial assistance under PM-Kisan and Pension to the farmers. were praiseworthy, they may not be adequate to mitigate the prevailing economic distress on account of high indebtedness of the Punjab farmer, he added, lamenting that the Centre’s response to their repeated request for one-time national debt waiver for farmers had not been encouraging.Meanwhile, in another letter, the Chief Minister has urged Modi to advise the Union Ministry of Agriculture to effect suitable modifications in PMFBY.Captain Amarinder said in his letter that though this scheme was considered a step forward and better than the previous ones, there were several lacunae, which had resulted in its non-acceptance by Punjab’s farmers and its non-implementation in the state.The Chief Minister has suggested PMFBY should be made farm/plot based instead of being area based, as was the case at present. Further, he suggested that indemnity level at more than 90% (up to 95%) be allowed and be based on last year’s yield of affected and insured farmers.The post-harvest losses in the mandis due to natural calamities should also be covered under the scheme, said Captain Amarinder, adding that the provision for localised calamities should also cover the losses due to unseasonal rainfall during Rabi crops and increase in cost of cultivation of Kharif crops due to deficient rainfall.
The Chief Minister also demanded that no premium should be charged from farmers and it should be shared between Central and State Governments on 60:40 bases, as most of the farmers were reeling under acute economic distress. Pointing out that 98% of cultivated area in Punjab was under assured irrigation; the Chief Minister informed Modi that despite repeated natural calamities, the state had been successful in saving and managing its crops, though at a huge cost, some of which was borne by the farmers. In fact, the State of Punjab had never notified a calamity year in the past over 15 years, he added.The Chief Minister wrote, "The present agrarian crises and financial stress on farmers is widely reported. It is felt that in such a situation farmers are unable to bear insurance premium which, it is felt, should be borne by the State and the Central Governments. In any case the Central Government does bear the cost on account of natural calamities and there should be no reason not to bear the cost of premium which helps to avoid the liabilities on account of natural disasters/calamities." The Chief Minister further noted that PMFBY provides insurance cover for post-harvest losses only for the crops which are kept in "cut and spread" conditions in the field. “It does not happen in Punjab as harvesting of cereal crops in the state is fully mechanized. Punjab farmers take the crops immediately to the mandis but the losses that invariably occur in mandis are not covered under the scheme. Such losses should also be covered,” he said