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Farm outfits, experts rue leaving small farmers out of ambit of Bill to end kurki

Punjab government on Tuesday passed four Bills including three to negate the Centre’s three agri Acts, and the fourth to give an exemption from kurki to farmers owning land up to 2.5 acres.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar | October 21, 2020 11:35:26 am
Farm outfits, experts rue leaving small farmers out of ambit of Bill to end kurkiFarmers gherao Circuit House in Jalandhar while protesting against farm laws on Tuesday

With the exemption of farmers from attachment (kurki) of land up to 2.5 acres under the Code of Civil Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020, nearly 14.13 per cent marginal farmers (according to Punjab government’s agricultural census, 2015-16) who own less than 2.5 acres land will get relief. While experts and farmers have welcomed this step, they added that the Bill should have covered small farmers, who own up to five acres of land, too.

They argued that adding small farmers to the ambit of the Bill would have possibly helped in cutting down the number of farmer suicides in the states.

Punjab government on Tuesday passed four Bills including three to negate the Centre’s three agri Acts, and the fourth to give an exemption from kurki to farmers owning land up to 2.5 acres.

According to the fourth Bill now not only properties of such marginal farmers like cattle, implements, cowsheds, etc, would be exempt from attachment, but their land too would be exempt from kurki.

“As per the government census, only 14 per cent marginal farmers would get the benefit of the new Bill, while according to our survey there are around 40 per cent marginal farmers in Punjab now,” said Prof (retired) Gian Singh from the Economics department Punjabi University, Patiala, who is also an expert on farming issues and has conducted several surveys and written books on farmers’ indebtedness and other farm studies.

He added that government’s move was good, but small farmers should have been included in the new Bill to help cover total 33 per cent farmers (as per government census) in its ambit, which according to Dr Singh’s survey stands at 68 per cent of the state’s total farmers.

“As per our surveys of farmers’ suicides, 76 per cent suicides are committed by the small and marginal farmers only and the major reason in majority surveys is the fear of their land being attached by the agencies providing loan to them in case they default,” he added.

“Sir Chottu Ram Act’ (under no circumstances, no indebted farmer shall be dispossessed of his land and house) was best as it included all the farmers and here the government could have included at least small farmers along with marginal farmers,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, Bharti Kisan Union (BKU), Dakaunda. He added: “If you are giving debt relief of Rs 2 lakh to both small and marginal farmers then a relief in kurki too should be given to both.”

BOOST TO FEDERAL STRUCTURE

Experts said that the Bills to negate the Centre’ agri Acts have given a boost to federal structure.

“It is very good step and the state government has restored the federal structure by rejecting Centre’s Acts and also getting the entire control in the state’s hand,” said Prof Gian Singh.

“The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020′ also makes state strong as the state will keep all powers to fix stock limits and reject Centre’s powers to fix stock limits,” said Prof Kesar Singh Bhangu, a professor of economics at Punjabi University, Patiala, adding that the provisions of imprisonment of three years and a fine in case of all these Bills will act as a big deterrent against farmers’ exploitation.

While earlier Punjab government had banned kurki by state cooperatives, but other financial institutions were under the Centre and out of the state’s purview. However, now the fourth Bill prevents attachment of land up to 2.5 acres by all lenders.

BLOW TO DIVERSIFICATION

Farmers’ organisations and experts said that wheat and paddy was the main focus in the Bill and there is no mention of other crops like maize, basmati and cotton, which are the major alternative for the paddy.

“When Punjab needs to diversify are from paddy to other crops then why these crops were not included. Rather the government itself is promoting wheat and paddy cycle only by talking about its MSP,” said Jagmohan, adding that it is a big blow to the diversification policy of the government.

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