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Lashing out at the Akalis for their alleged attempt to mislead the people of Punjab, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday promised total implementation of his pre-poll promise on farm debt waiver while categorically ruling out any move to withdraw free power for agriculture. The CM, however, appealed farmers to save ground water whose levels have been going down drastically over the past three decades and asked them to divert from water-guzzling paddy crop to other crops. Amarinder was addressing farmers at a function to issue farm debt waiver certificates totalling Rs 162.16 crore for 29,192 farmers at the Dana Mandi here, in the second stage of waiver of loans for the state’s 10.25 lakh small and marginal farmers.
Marginal farmers from the five districts of Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Ludhiana, Fazilka and Ferozepur got their loan waiver certificates on Wednesday. In the third stage, another 50,000 farmers will get their debt waiver certificates in the Majha area, the CM said. He said the slight delay in the function (debt relief) was the result not of funds paucity but the fact that the procedure for identification and verification of the eligible farmers, along with their loan amount, was taking some time. The number of suicides had come down since the Congress took over, he said, adding that there had been a marked improvement in the situation, of which his government will give details in the forthcoming Budget Session of the Vidhan Sabha.
Attacking Akalis for their “blatantly false propaganda” against his government on the issue of tubewell meters, the CM ruled out any proposal to withdraw free power for farmers. He said his government had only metered 990 of the total 13.50 lakh tubewells in the state as part of a research project aimed at saving ground water while ensuring that farmers also get an incentive in the form of cash for their personal use. Explaining this, he said if a farmer was given Rs 10,000 against his tubewell power consumption and ends up a bill of Rs 7000, the remaining Rs 3000 will go into his pocket and he will also contribute to saving the declining ground water level in the state.
Amarinder said there was no question of anyone making money from these schemes but appealed to farmers that it was the responsibility of “our generation to save water for the future generations”. Punjab could well end up as a desert unless immediate corrective measures are taken to check the decline in water levels, he said, while citing the example of Patiala where the water level had receded from 70 feet to 700 feet in 30 year.
Attacking the Akalis, he said the nexus between SAD and BJP was evident from the fact that the Akali leadership had started plying their buses in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh ever since the BJP took over in that state. The CM also accused Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal of failing to protect Punjab’s and the farmers’ interests at the Centre “She did not raise her voice even though the BJP government at the Centre failed to take any steps in the budget for the farming community,” Amarinder said, pointing out that the NDA government had failed to implement the Swaminathan report, which was the only way to help farmers boost their income and bring the agriculture sector out of the doldrums into which it had been plunged.
Speaking at the function, state’s Finance Minister Manpreet Badal described Captain as the “second” Chhotu Ram”, a champion of the interests of the farmers who did a lot of work for the peasantry. State Congress president and Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar challenged the SAD to break ties with BJP for failing to give any package to Punjab, just as TDP had done, and asked farmers to question Akalies for what they have done for them.
Rs 113-cr projects for poll-bound Shahkot
Ahead of Shahkot Assembly bypoll, Captain announced infrastructure projects worth Rs 113 crore for Shahkot area and another Rs 49 crore for Nakodar. For Shahkot, the government has allocated Rs 15 crore for a new Government Degree College at Village Sarangwal, besides Rs 30 crore for special repair of 280 kms of link roads and other projects. For Nakodar, the grants announced include Rs 24 crore for repair of 289 kms of link roads, Rs 9 crore for development of 34 Mandis and other projects.