Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today demanded a one-time agricultural loan waiver for all farmers to effectively remove the problems of farm indebtedness.
Speaking at the first meeting of the Working Group on Agriculture Production in Chandigarh, he said, "All the figures being quoted on the resilience of national economy are dependent on the performance of the farm sector. Therefore, the Centre should treat farm loan waiver as an investment in pushing the country into the top performing economies of the world." Badal said that rural debts had assumed the proportions of a grave human tragedy.
Noting that the states "did not benefit" from the debt waiver scheme offered by the Centre, he urged the Union government to waive all agricultural loans as one-time measure, regardless of the size of the land holding.
He asked the Centre to bring landless farmers and agricultural labour under the relief scheme. Easy credit availability at a four per cent rate of interest, both for short as well as long-term loans, was mandatory for improving investments in agriculture in order to reduce the debt burden of the farmers, he added.
Badal called upon the Centre to "drastically recast the pricing structure (MSP) of agriculture produce along the Dr Swaminathan formula" and to advance liberal and significant grants to the states to modernise farm technology and irrigation infrastructure.
He said that the Centre must supplement the efforts of the state government to increase productivity and ensure cent per cent food security of the country. The Centre must make a heavy investment for revamping and rejuvenating the canal irrigation network, which was beyond the reach of the state government, he said.
He said that the canal irrigation system needed immediate investment for bringing it back to its full potential capacity, pointing out that the area being irrigated through Punjab's canals has reduced to 11 lakh hectares from 16.6 lakh hectares previously.
Badal said that whereas the irrigated wheat yield was about 42-45 quintals per hectare in Punjab and Haryana, the irrigated wheat yield in some other states ranged between 16 and 28 quintals. He called for a special agriculture package for border areas where the land of farmers lies beyond the fence along the international border, as a result of which they were facing great difficulty in undertaking agricultural operations.