Families of several farmers, who committed suicide due to mounting debts over the past two years, are still waiting for the cash relief promised by the Amarinder Singh government in the state. As the date of polling draws near, most such families The Indian Express spoke to said they were disillusioned with politicians, but will still cast their vote. Amarinder Singh government had promised immediate relief of Rs one lakh to farmers committing suicide, adding that Rs one lakh more will be given as compensation in due course.
Rajinder Kaur (57), mother of deceased farmer Jaswant Singh of Gobindpura-Jawaharwala village of Sangrur district, said that government had promised to pay Rs two lakh when her son had committed suicide on April 24, 2017. She says that neither was the compensation amount paid nor the loan of Rs two lakh her son owed to a cooperative society waived off. The family is eligible for the state government’s much publicised loan waiver scheme.
“We do not want to vote for anyone due to their false promises, but we have to live in the village and cannot ignore local leaders who asked us to cast our vote,” said the 57-year-old, who lives with her son’s wife and two daughters aged twelve and five.
Paramjit Kaur (52), wife of deceased farmer Gurcharan Singh (Joga village in Mansa district) who committed suicide on May 8, 2017, said that not a single penny was given to them by the government till date except Rs 700 widow pension. The family owns two acre farm land and has a debt of around Rs 4 lakh from a bank and an arhtiya. Her only son, Hardeep, works as a labourer.
“No government has done anything for us, but still we will vote as we are poor people and cannot ignore the local leaders, who come to us asking for votes and we may require them anytime in case of any need,” she said.
Farmer outfit BKU (Ugrahan)’s general secretary, Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan says that in the past two years of Congress government in the state over 900 cases of farmer suicides have been reported and in most cases no compensation has been paid at all.
Punjab government in its current Budget had allocated Rs 3000 crore for the families of farmers who committed suicides and for waiving of the loan of landless, farm labourers. Karam Singh of village Dhurkot district Barnala, had committed suicide on May 15 , 2017. His wife, Kulwinder Kaur, and two children — a daughter pursing her BCA and a son in Class 12 — are dependent on the lease rent from their six acre land to run their house. “We have not received any help from government despite having a debt of Rs 27 lakh from bank, arhtiyas and relatives. Under pressure from villagers we have to caste our vote,” said Kulwinder Kaur.
The family of Pritam Singh, another farmer who had committed suicide by consuming pesticide in the field on
April 21, 2017 in village Lehal Kalan under Lehra Sub Division of district Sangrur, also hasn’t received any help despite coming under small farmer category.
Nazar Singh Manshahia, an AAP MLA from Mansa who recently joined Congress, was among the five-member all party committee formed to study farmer suicides and farm debt in the state. He told The Indian Express that the panel had found that 76 per cent of all suicide cases were by small and marginal farmers. “Committee had recommended an immediate relief of Rs one lakh to family of farmers committing suicides, free education to their children, and employment to a family member among others,” he said.
Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal could not be contacted as his aide told that he was busy in election meetings. Punjab Cabinet Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, who led the five-member all party committee formed to study farmer suicides and debt, told The Indian Express that government had agreed to the panel’s 2018 recommendation to provide immediate relief of Rs one lakh to families of farmers committing suicides. About the number of farmers suicide in past two years, he said that they go by the details collected by the district revenue authorities as different sources quote different data.