As the report of a panel on farm loan waiver headed by Dr T Haque was tabled before the state Cabinet on Thursday, several Punjab ministers called the Rs 9500 crore loan waiver “inadequate” and urged the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to waive off the entire amount of Rs 60,000 crore as was promised in the Congress manifesto.
The Haque committee report was discussed as table agenda in the Cabinet and it was decided to take it up for final nod in the next Cabinet meeting on September 4. Sources said Dr Haque in his report has not only recommended a loan waiver of Rs 9500 crore at Rs 2 lakh each to small and marginal farmers, but also recommended a one-time interest waiver to all farmers, if the state has access to funds.
At the meeting Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa was the first to state that should have given total waiver. Other ministers then are learnt to have joined the chorus.
After the Cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal gave a presentation on the state of finances and explained how the state struggling to even pay the salaries. After the ministers’ expressed concern, Amarinder is learnt to have told his Cabinet colleagues that in the backdrop of a severe fund crunch, the government was doing its best.
Sources claimed that while the loan waiver of Rs 9500 crore would be notified after the next Cabinet meeting, the interest waiver would be considered at a later stage. For now, the government is also looking at the Centre to bail it out by raising the borrowing limit for the state.
Meanwhile, the Haque committee, while suggesting ways and means to raise resources for the loan waiver, has said that the government can get a loan or levy cess. Following the suggestion, the state has already decided to hike Market Development Fee (MDF) and Rural Development Fee (RDF) by one per cent each. The hike is likely to help it get additional funds to the tune of Rs 900 crore per annum. The government will soon promulgate an ordinance to amend the Punjab Agricultural Produce Market Act, 1961 to achieve this objective as the Cabinet has given its nod.