THE PUNJAB and Haryana High Court Monday raised questions over the Punjab government’s crop loan waiver scheme for farmers and asked it to explain in detail from where the money it intends to spend on implementation would come. The court also summoned Punjab Additional Chief Secretary (Agriculture) Vishwajeet Khanna. A division bench observed that it wants response “by way of action and not just assurances.” The division bench of Justices Ajay Kumar Mittal and Anupinder Singh Grewal during the hearing of a bunch of PILs on farmer protests in the state observed that “it is meaningless unless something concrete is done” after the Punjab government submitted its recent notifications on the loan waiver scheme before the bench. It asked the government to explain the practical modalities of the scheme implementation.
As the Punjab government counsel responded that the government was waiting for the revenue to come from the auction of liquor vends in state, the division bench observed that “it is wishful thinking”. The counsel said he can submit a detailed affidavit on the measures the government intends to take for implementing the scheme. However, the division bench said the officer concerned also remain present before the court. The division bench also observed that the government needs to think about austerity measures to curtail its expenses and asked it to take a decision on repealing the provisions of law that allow recovery of the loans by way of auction of the mortgaged farmland. “You need to think about both short term and long term measures that are required to tackle the problem,” it observed.
The Punjab government had issued a notification on the crop loan waiver scheme in October 2017. According to the scheme, the government offers loan waiver to small and marginal farmers to the tune of Rs 2 lakh. In an affidavit submitted in November last year, it had said that a total outstanding debt of farmers in the state is estimated to be Rs 60,000 crore.
While the division in the order passed on February 23 had asked the government to “file a tentative proposal as to how the waiver of loans for small farmers shall be carried out,” the government Monday only filed a short affidavit attaching the October notification with it along with the notifications on subsequent amendments carried out in the first one in past two months.