SPEAKING ON farmer suicides in Punjab, most of which are a fallout of mounting debt, well-known economist Dr Sardara Singh Johal Tuesday said the menace would not end unless and until farmers’ debt is not taken up as an individual issue. He said the state government was not clear on how it will waive farm debt, despite announcing a farm loan waiver.
Johal was in Jalandhar to participate in a seminar organised to oppose the carving out a separate horticulture university from Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana. Speaking on the sidelines of the meet, he said, “I am personally against the loan waiver but still if farmers are to be relieved, debt should be dealt with as an individual issue instead of across the board of all the farmers.”
“Debt reconciliation and settlement boards must be set up at districts level under the chairmanship of a retired judge and two members; one senior government official and one recognised public representative. For the debt-ridden farmers and even for the lender, this commission should be the arbitrator of last resort. Stress due to debt is an individual problem, not across the board of all farmers. Settlement, rewriting, reconciliation, debt waiver etc. should be decided on individual basis. This will help the indebted persons who are stressed in reality and will be less costly for the state,” he said.
Johal said he was not in favour of implementation of the Swaminathan commission report, which guarantees at least 50 per cent return over cost of production. “It will help only big farmers which will have something to sell in the market what a small farmers will sell with one or two acres,” he said. “I proposed that jobs be provided to small farmers so that they can become part-time farmers with their small land holdings and for that I have mentioned a complete road map to follow which I had provided to former CM P S Badal, former deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, the present Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, CM Captain Amarinder Singh but they are not ready to follow that,” said Johal.