A report of the Vidhan Sabha committee formed last year to probe reasons of farmer suicides in the state has rapped banks for lending irresponsibly, the agriculture department for not discharging its duty and even the farmers for borrowing injudiciously. It has also faulted the Centre for giving inadequate MSP.
The 99-page report, tabled in the Assembly on Wednsday, has made 69 recommendations. It states that the banks were lending money to farmers to complete their targets without caring for farmer’s paying capacity.
The committee was constituted in compliance of a resolution moved by CM Amarinder Singh in the Assembly in June last year. It was mandated to meet families of farmers who had committed suicide in recent years to probe the reasons for suicides and prepare a comprehensive report with suggestions and recommendations on how to curb the same.
The report has also stated that the farmers were in a race of wasteful expenditure on weddings going up to Rs 25 to 30 lakh, buying machinery like tractors despite having small chunks of land, spending on high life, dependence on drugs and dependence on labour rather than working themselves in the field. The committee has said the farmers used the loan for making houses and sending their children abroad.
The five-member committee constituted under the chairmanship of Congress MLA Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria with Congress MLAs Nathu Ram, Kuljit Singh Nagra, AAP MLA Najar Singh Manshaia and SAD MLA Harinderpal Singh Chandumajra, has prepared the report after 53-meetings with farmers in 22 districts of the state.
Rapping the agriculture department of state government, it stated that it was not discharging its duty effectively. It pointed out that spurious seeds and pesticides were sneaking into the market and causing loss to the farmers.
The committee has also stated that the MSP was not enough in comparison with the input cost. It has recommended that the Centre should have MSP for all crops, but if that’s not done then its responsibility of the state to ensure that the farmers get minimum price of every crop including vegetables and fruits.
It has also recommended that only 10 per cent of state’s population should be dependent on farming for a living. For the rest the stategovernment should generate employment avenues, and ensure education for the children of farmers and farm labourers. As per the website of Punjab’s Agriculture Department, 75 per cent of state’s population is dependent on farming for a living.
The report has also recommended a complete loan waiver for farm labourers, a cap on the interest limit on lendings by commission agents, pension for farm labouers at 60 instead of 65 , special subsidy for common tubewells for farmers having less than five acres, cooperative societies to lend on priority to farmers having less than five acres.
Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Khaira demanded a discussion on the report but the Speaker did not allow it citing time constraint. Parliamentary affairs minister Brahm Mohindra then suggested that the report along with Narang commission report may be debated in the next session.