The Punjab government has sanctioned Rs 64.9 crore during the current financial year for payment to affected families in farmer suicide cases. This sum would be released shortly to the deputy commissioners concerned to make the payment at the rate of Rs 2 lakh per family.
Kahan Singh Pannu, secretary, department of agriculture, submitted this information in the Punjab and Haryana high court in an ongoing case. The petitioner organisation, Movement Against State Repression, had raised the issue of framing a policy-envisaging payment to families of farmers who had committed suicide due to financial constraints on account of indebtedness.
Pannu informed the court through an affidavit that the state had decided to grant financial assistance of Rs 2 lakh each to the affected families of farmers and farm labourers who had committed suicide since 2000. As per the policy, which was circulated to deputy commissioners in July 2009, financial assistance was approved at the level of government on recommendations of a committee headed by the deputy commissioner concerned.
4,685 took extreme step
The court was told that a state-level survey of suicides by farmers and farm labourers due to debt during 2000-08 was got conducted through the three state universities Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; Punjabi University, Patiala; and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. As per the survey reports, 4,685 persons, including 2,943 farmers and 1,742 farm labourers, had committed suicide due to debt during this period.
The court was also informed that Rs 23.86 crore were released to deputy commissioners during the 2012-13 financial year for disbursement of Rs 1 lakh per affected family on the basis of survey reports.
Commitments since 2002
The petitioner organisation had approached the high court in November 2007, saying that the HC had disposed of a contempt-of-court petition in December 2006 when Punjab's financial commissioner, department of agriculture, had given an undertaking that the Punjab State Farmers Commission had recommended compensation and rehabilitation of affected families and the same was being processed.
But the state did not bother to fulfil its promise even after a year, the petitioner said, adding that the state had been making commitments since 2002 in the court. The case would now come up for hearing on January 13, 2014.