In the run-up to Punjab Assembly polls, Congress’s “Karza Kurki Khatam, Fasal di Poori Rakam”, a farm loan waiver scheme floated by the party as part of its campaign to woo farmers in the state, has got such an overwhelming response that the number of “debt-ridden farmers” who have signed up for the scheme so far is more than twice the official number of farmer households in the state. Enthused by the response, the Congress has now decided to distribute 10 lakh more “debt waiver forms (maangpatra)” to its workers and asked them to get these filled by November 4.
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According to National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), there are around 14 lakh farmer households in Punjab. However, according to the information provided by the Punjab Congress, the party has got filled a total of 29 lakh such forms from the farmers in the state to date by visiting a majority of the mandis (grain markets) in the state as well as villages. There are over 13,000 villages in Punjab, of which over 9,000 have already been covered under this campaign, Congress sources said.
The collective debt on farmers in Punjab is around Rs 70,000 crore, according to official figures.
Donil Sharma, an aide of Prashant Kishor who plays a key role in Congress’s election campaign in Punjab, said around 29 lakh such forms were filled by farmers during their door-to-door campaign and Bus Yatra. When reminded that Punjab had just around 14 lakh farmer households, he conceded duplication, saying farmers sitting in mandis (to sell their paddy) as well as their family members at home had filled the forms separately as Congress workers are visiting both mandis and these households. “We will digitize each form after this exercise is over and then the actual number of farmers under debt will be arrived at,” he said.
There are many “farm labourers” too who were debt-ridden, he said, claiming that the entire exercise would give the exact picture about the debt of not only farmers but also of the farm labourers in Punjab.
SAD’s Tota Singh, who is state’s agriculture minister, said it was all fraud. “In one household, there is one debt amount,” he said. Singh said a similar scheme was launched in 1972 by Congress’s Gianai Zail Singh under which they got filled forms from the landless people in Punjab with the promise of providing each of them 5 acres of land for farming purposes by taking away land from big landlords of Punjab, but failed to honour the promise.
The Congress had launched the farm loan waiver scheme from October 12 till October 25, during which even state Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh visited several mandis to get these forms filled and took out a ‘Bus Yatra’ for three days in Malwa region, covering around 600 kilometres areas and over two dozen mandis from October 17 to 19.
These forms were distributed to around 600 Congress ticket aspirants in Punjab. Each of them were supposed to get filled 6,000 such forms filled from their respective areas. Congress leaders said the scheme was extended because of the huge response from farmers.