Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Thursday said that arhtiyas (commission agents) must come under the ambit of a law, adding that their accounts should be subjected to an audit to ensure compound interest is not levied on loans to farmers.
“We want to make sure farmers do not fall into the debt trap. Our focus is not just on loan waiver. Arhtiyas are our brothers. They are amogst us. But they have to take a licence. There should be a law so that there is audit and every penny lent to farmers is accounted for,” Sidhu said. He said that a sub-committee formed by Punjab Vidhan Sabha to study the debt component by private money lenders had submitted its report to the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. “I will not reveal the recommendations as it is up to the Chief Minister to accept them or not,” said Sidhu, adding: “We do not just want to waive off the debt of the farmers but also want to leave behind a legacy of Captain Sahib that no debt gets mounted on the farmers in future. Currently, if a farmer borrows Rs 87,000 he has a mounting debt of Rs 20 lakh in some years. We will work this out.”
A three-member sub-committee comprising finance minister Manpreet Badal, local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and rural development minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa was set up after the farm debt waiver had been announced by Amarinder. The waiver did not have anything for the farmers who had borrowed money from the private money lenders. The sub-committee was formed after the opposition raised this point.
Meanwhile, responding to a question on the new state government’s performance, Sidhu said five months was too short a period to judge that. “At least give us a year and then judge. Our policies are ready, we have set the time frame and our priorities are fixed,” he added. Questioned about the CM appearing to be ignoring his effort to get action initiated against Akali leaders, he said: “CM has the power to overrule anyone. He is the supreme commander.”
About allegations of rape against former Akali minister Sucha Singh Langah, he added: “You just listen to PPCC president Sunil Kumar Jakhar and BJP candidate Swaran Salaria for two minutes. You will be able to decide as to who should be the next MP from Gurdaspur. There is no match for Jakhar as far as his debate, integrity and clean image is concerned.”