Six-and-a-half months after announcing farm loan waiver for small and marginal farmers having land up to 5 acres, a promise made by the Congress in its poll campaign, the Punjab government will start issuing debt waiver certificates to nearly 47,000 farmers from five districts at a function in Mansa on January 7.
Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh will himself hand over debt waiver certificates to 25 farmers at the function.
Though the total number of beneficiaries was pegged at 10.25 lakh by the government, only 5.63 lakh farmers have been identified so far for the purpose.
The first phase of waiver will see disbursement of debt waiver certificates for Rs 167.39 crore in loan taken by nearly 47000 eligible marginal and small farmers from 701 Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies of the five districts of farmers from Mansa, Bathinda, Faridkot, Moga and Muktsar. For now, the waiver will be only for farm loan up to Rs 2 lakh.
Meanwhile, Additional Chief Secretary (Co-operation) D P Reddy and Additional CS (Development) Viswajeet Khanna Khanna, while jointly addressing the media in Chandigarh, said the government had already identified 5.63 lakh farmers who had taken a total loan of nearly Rs 2,700 crore from cooperative institutions as beneficiaries for disbursement of debt waiver certificates in the first of the four planned phases for completion of the entire process.
Of these, the process of verification had been completed for 3.20 lakh farmers. As many as 1.60 lakh cases with loans totalling Rs 748 crore have been approved by the state government.
Khanna said there was no need for farmers to panic as more such functions would be organised in the coming days.
Reddy said, “The entire debt waiver process would be completed in four phases. In the first phase, verified marginal farmers would be handed over the debt relief certificates and the rest in subsequent phases, after proper verification.”
Khanna also clarified that wherever marginal farmers had availed loans from multiple banks, they shall be further eligible for debt relief for loans taken from commercial banks. This would be in addition to the relief being provided against loans taken from cooperative banks. The total relief shall, however, be limited to Rs 2 lakh.
However, farmer unions and AAP have decided stage protests in various parts of Mansa on Sunday to press for complete debt waiver.
Ram Singh Bhainibagha, president of Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahana), said, “We want complete waiver. The CM is not fulfilling his own announcement of loan waiver for farmers having land up to 5 acres. Only 47,000 farmers with land holding of up to 2.5 acres or less have been chosen while a total of 1.42 lakh farmers having land up to 2.5 acres are registered with cooperative societies in the five districts. We will stage protests in Mansa town, away from the venue of the programme.”
Leader of the Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira, co-convener of AAP Aman Arora along with other party workers have also decided to protest by showing black flags to the CM. Khaira told The Indian Express, “We will be staging a sit-in at Arvind Nagar in Mansa and will later march to the venue of function, which is a mere drama. They have left out many genuine farmers while a few close to the party have been favoured.”
Meanwhile, heavy police security has been deployed in Mansa. State Congress president and Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar, who will also be present at the function, said, “In a democracy everyone has the right to express himself. However, this effort of CM should be applauded rather than protested against. We have arranged around Rs 5000 crore to waive the debt of marginal farmers and more will also be arranged. Not even a single farmer will be left out. All false propaganda is being done by a few persons. The government is on its way to fulfill the promises made in the Congress manifesto.”
Apart from CM, ministers Manpreet Badal and Navjot Singh Sidhu will also be present at the function in Mansa.