Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday sought from the Centre a one-time settlement of Rs 6000 crore in loans taken by the state’s farmers from national and private banks. During his meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley here, Amarinder said such a settlement will benefit 4.5 lakh beleaguered farmers of the state and sought his intervention in converting the amount into term loan to the state by giving requisite directions to the Reserve Bank of India.
Of the total debt of small and marginal farmers waived by the state, Rs 3,600 crore relates to loan from cooperatives, with the remaining Rs 6,000 crore coming from banks. These banks, the Chief Minister said in a statement, “were giving unethical loans to the farmers, pushing them into a vicious cycle of debt”.
Amarinder also discussed with the finance minister the issue of settlement of Rs 31,000 crore CCL related debt to ease the state’s financial burden. He requested Jaitley to set up a committee on the issue, which he had earlier also taken up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The chief minister pointed out that the Rs 18500-crore interest on the Rs 12,500 crore Cash Credit Limit (CCL) legacy gap was exorbitant as it would mean that the state will end up paying Rs 270 crore every month for next 20 years at the cost of welfare schemes of the state. The chief minister also raised the issue of losses incurred by the state on account of procurement. He pointed out that of the Rs 40,000 crore procurement undertaken every year, the state was suffering a loss of Rs 5500 crore, including Rs 3,500 crore on payment of instalments and interest on outstanding CCL debt.
The chief minister also urged the finance minister to waive GST on Langar and Prasad given out at Gurdwaras, temples, churches and mosques. The chief minister had earlier written to the finance minister seeking GST exemption on Langar (community kitchen) and the Prasad distributed at various religious institutions. The finance minister has directed department officials to look into all the issues and coordinate with officials from Punjab government to resolve them.
The chief minister was accompanied by state Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, Member Parliament from Amritsar Gurjit Singh Aujla and other officials.