Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a one-time agriculture debt waiver at the national level for the distressed farmers and some modifications in Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY) so that it was acceptable to the Punjab farmers.
“The Government of India should bite the bullet once and for all,” Amarinder said in a letter. “It is widely acknowledged that the ‘anndattas’ of the country are facing severe debt stress, as a result of which some of them had even taken the extreme step of ending their lives by committing suicides”.
The Punjab CM emphasised on the need to rectify the situation, not with slow and small measures but with carefully thought-out steps to mitigate their distress and improve their living conditions.
Amarinder apprised the prime minister that the Punjab government alone had provided a debt relief of Rs 2 lakh to all the marginal and small farmers who had availed institutional loans. As many as 5.52 lakh farmers have been provided a debt relief of Rs 4,468 crore so far, and the remaining would be provided the entitled relief under the scheme in the near future, he said.
“The relief given by the Punjab government from its limited resources is not adequate and needs to be supplemented by the Government of India,” he wrote.
Though the recent initiatives of the central government, including financial assistance under PM-Kisan scheme, which provides income support of Rs 6,000 per year, and pension to farmers were praiseworthy, they may not be adequate to mitigate the prevailing economic distress on account of high indebtedness of the Punjab farmers, Amarinder said, adding that Centre’s response to their repeated request for one-time national debt waiver for farmers had not been encouraging.
In a separate letter, the CM urged Modi to advise the Union Ministry of Agriculture to effect suitable modifications in Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY). Amarinder Singh said although, the scheme was considered to be a step forward and better than the previous ones, there were several “lacunae”, which had resulted in its non-acceptance by Punjab’s farmers and its non-implementation in the state.
He suggested that the PMFBY should be made farm or plot based instead of area based, as was the case at present. Further, he suggested that indemnity level at more than 90 per cent be allowed and be based on last year’s yield of affected and insured farmers.
The provision for localised calamities should also cover the losses due to unseasonal rainfall during Rabi crops and increase in cost of cultivation of Kharif crops due to deficient rainfall, he added.
He also demanded that no premium should be charged from farmers and it should be shared between central and state governments in 60:40 ratio, as most of the farmers were reeling under acute economic distress.
The CM further noted that PMFBY provides insurance cover for post-harvest losses only for the crops, which are kept in “cut and spread” conditions in the field. “It does not happen in Punjab as harvesting of cereal crops in the state is fully mechanized. Punjab farmers take the crops immediately to the mandis but the losses that invariably occur in mandis are not covered under the scheme. Such losses should also be covered,” he said.