The Internationalist Democratic Party and the Bharti Kisan Union (Sidhupur), on Sunday, asked the Punjab government to enact a legislation in the forthcoming budget session of the assembly to provide immediate relief to the debt-ridden farmers and their families who were taking to suicide.
According to the resolution passed in a seminar organised by the two organisations, the assembly should unanimously adopt the Punjab Farm Credit Relief Bill, which had been lying in cold storage for a long time. "At the same time, the state government should initiate concrete steps to get loan waiver from the Centre for the farm sector and initiate moves to create employment opportunities and arrange better education and health facilities, especially for agricultural families," the resolution said.
Prof Gian Singh, an economist from Punjabi University, Patiala, described the corporate model of growth as "suicidal" for the common people and said the economic condition of the people could not be improved without strengthening the public sector. "Economic reforms were distortions and these policies had paved the way for the control of the corporate sector over the government. This model would also be harmful for the food security of the country," he added.
He traced the genesis of the crisis in the farm sector to 1969 when the government started giving priority to the industrial sector, saying the mode of fixing prices of farm produce turned agriculture into a losing proposition. He said that going by the latest studies, farmers were incurring losses of Rs 415 per quintal on wheat.
Strongly advocating the model of subsidies, Prof Singh said, "If the industrial sector can be given huge concessions every year and custom duty worth Rs 95,000 crore can be waived on the import of jewellery, why can't the government waive the loans of farmers?"
He suggested that the government must arrange loans for farmers at lower interest rates.
Senior journalist Hamir Singh said the actual reason behind the rising incidents of suicide by farmers was that the agriculture sector was not getting priority. "Moreover, wrong farm policies are further deepening the crisis. Cooperative and organic farming should be encouraged."
Prof Manjit Singh of Panjab University warned that the crisis in the farm sector was likely to deepen further due to lopsided policies of the government. He suggested that Dalits and women should also be mobilised by farmers for their agitation.
BKU president Pishaura Singh said they would launch an agitation to press for the relief bill in the coming session of the assembly.