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IN THE backdrop of the Punjab government’s farm loan waiver promise to farmers, the apex industry body, ASSOCHAM, has advised the government against loan waiver and free electricity to middle and big farmers and sought withdrawal of cow cess on power supply to industrialists. Mooting a proposal to the newly elected government after a joint vision paper brought out by ASSOCHAM and Thought Arbitrage Research Institute (TARI), the organisation said, “To reduce farmers’ indebtedness, private moneylenders should be registered and regulated and instead of debt waiver schemes, state should find ways to expand institutional credit facilities.”
Addressing the media, ASSOCHAM National Secretary General D S Rawat and TARI Director Kshama V Kaushik said the goverment should loan money to farmers at low interest but not give them farm waivers. While suggesting ways to attract and revive industry in the state, ASSOCHAM said power policy should be reviewed.
“Octroi and cow cess should be withdrawn and cheaper power available to new industries should be extended to the existing ones.” On free power subsidy to farmers, Rawat said, “The policy should be changed to provide free power to only small and marginal farmers, while power to middle and big farmers could be charged at market rates (or slightly subsidised). In addition to renewable energy like solar power, plans should be worked out for harvesting bio-energy to use biomass generated.”
It has suggested that Punjab needs to promote less water-guzzling crops like pulses, oilseeds, cotton, maize, millet, vegetables and fruits by providing improved seeds and ensuring that farmers get a fair price for these crops through a market support mechanism. Ad hoc policies like ban on export of foodgrain, limits on private stocking and tax on purchase of foodgrain (14.4%) should be revisited and withdrawn wherever possible.
The fertiliser subsidy policy needs to be revisited to achieve the balanced use of nutrients and subsidy should be transferred directly to the farmers. The government has also been advised to develop labour-intensive technologies suitable for growth of MSMEs and support with adequate infrastructure to overcome problems of poor labour productivity and obsolete technologies.