Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said the government would waive off only the crop loan of state farmers and remained non-committal about paying off money lent by arhtiyas. Addressing the media here on Tuesday to list accomplishments of his government, Amarinder, while responding to a question on farmers continuing to commit suicides even after the farm debt waiver, said, “A farmer committed suicide today only. His loan was not a crop loan. We are waiving off crop loans only. We cannot be responsible if someone took a loan to build a house or else.”
On the issue of government’s silence on loan by commission agents, the CM said, “The arhtiyas accounts are not known to anyone.”
Amarinder had on monday held a meeting with commission agents and asked them not to charge exorbitant interest rates from the farmers. The government had formed a cabinet sub-committee to look into the loan by commission agents. But before the sub committee’s report, Amarinder indicated on Tuesday that Punjab’s farm waiver would be partial.
He said as per a report by Dr T Haque’s committee, constituted to look into farm loans, Punjab had about 20.22 lakh loan accounts and the total loan was Rs 59,621 crore. The government’s waiver was to benefit 10.25 lakh families out of a total of 18.50 lakh associated with farming. He said the government had extended a loan waiver to farmers with land holdings up to 5 acres as out of 77 farmers, who committed suicide within 100 days of Amarinder’s government, 90 per cent belonged to 5 acres category.
“Debt is off farmers’ back now. We are going to take up with the banks to devise how to pay it back,” he said.
No sirens or hooters
Amarinder announced that after doing away with red beacons, the government was now eliminating hooters and sirens used by government functionaries and elected representatives.
The Punjab government would depend on weather Gods to wash away referendum posters put up by separatists across Punjab. Amarinder, while indicating that police would not remove these, said, “These will be washed away in two-three days once it rains.” Allaying fears of a separatist movement gaining ground again, Amarinder said, “You do not worry about that. There is no movement. [Avtar Singh] Pannun of Sikhs for Justice has only 15 people with them. You think it is anything serious? Even Harjit Singh Sajjan (Canadian Defence minister) cannot do anything, whatever he may say.”
Amarinder said he would discuss cabinet expansion with AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday. He said he would be meeting him. “All those wanting to be in cabinet are keeping their fingers crossed,” he said mockingly.
No dip in sand prices
There will be no respite from skyrocketing sand prices in the state at least till September. Amarinder said the prices had gone high because of their crackdown on mafia and stopping illegal sand mining. He said the mines, auctioned recently, would not be operational till mid-September owing to monsoons. “We will have to bear with the prices if we want the mafia to be checked,” he said.
Regulatory authority for varsities and colleges
The CM announced a regulatory authority for private universities and colleges in Punjab. He said despite a lobby working against it, his government would manage to do so. The authority would ensure these educational institutes had proper faculty and infrastructure and were able to produce employable people.
‘Surrender or perish’
The CM asked the gangsters to surrender or his officers knew how to sort these people. “Either they should surrender or we will handle them,” he said, adding they were bringing in PCOCA to handle gangsters.