Cash-crunched Punjab government is now looking at raising money from defaulter rice millers to help it with its promised Rs 10,000 crore farm loan waiver. The government, which has decided to offer a one-time-settlement formula to 1600 rice millers who defaulted on payments worth Rs 7,500 crore, is hoping to recover Rs 2500 to 3000 crore from them.
The amount may come as a “bail out” for the state government, which desperately needs resources to fulfil its promise ahead of Gurdaspur bypoll. The government plans to notify the waiver immediately and has listed it on the agenda for Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.
With the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley not holding out hope for the state over relaxing Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) limit to allow the Amarinder Singh government to borrow money for extending the loan waiver, Punjab’s Finance and Food department functionaries put their heads together on Tuesday, a day before the Cabinet meeting and decided to use the money for the debt waiver.
Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, Finance Secretary Anirudh Tewari and Food Secretary KAP Sinha had marathon meetings throughout the day on Tuesday along with other officials. Under the one-time settlement scheme, already approved by the state Cabinet, defaulter rice millers have been given the option of paying the outstanding principal amount within 45 days, without any interest.
As many as 1600 rice millers, declared defaulters, had failed to deliver their due quota of rice. Sources said Manpreet was asked by the Chief Minister to prepare for the Cabinet meet. After knocking at the doors of the Jaitley on Monday, the minister came back to Chandigarh and got into action. The state would notify the waiver soon after the meeting, added sources. It would not extend the waiver immediately to Gurdaspur farmers as code of conduct is in place on account of Lok Sabha bypoll on October 11.