Better late than never, the Punjab government has finally started the process of framing a policy to compensate farm labourers for cotton crop loss due to the whitefly attack.
Two additional chief secretaries (ACSs) of the Punjab government — Karn Avtar Singh (revenue) and Suresh Kumar (development) — visited Midda and Virk Khera villages in Muktsar district to meet labourers of whitefly-affected areas in the Malwa region.
They will also visit other districts including Bathinda, Fazilka and Mansa to gather suggestions and feedback from labourers before finalising any mechanism to identity labourers.
The government had, in October, announced compensation of Rs 64 crore for labourers, mainly cotton-pickers, but has not so far started disbursing it due to the lack of any policy for identification of labourers.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had then directed the revenue department to come out with a viable policy for the disbursal of relief to farm labourers in case of ‘natural calamities’ in future.
ACS (development) Suresh Kumar said the basic purpose to gather suggestions, especially from cotton-pickers, is to formulate a compensation policy for them for future as well.
“We will finalise the draft of the policy on the basis of labourers’ suggestions so that each and every labourer is given financial assistance under the policy,” Kumar said.
Meanwhile, ACS (revenue) Karn Avtar Singh said the government was planning a policy, under which real cultivators were compensated for the loss of any crop due to a natural calamity.
“We will soon submit our recommendations to the government for approval, so that the affected labourers are provided relief at the earliest,” Singh said.
According the decision of the government, farm labourers are to be paid 10% of the compensation to farmers of Rs 8,000 per acre for crop damage. It comes out to be Rs 800 per acre. However, farmer and labour unions have been demanding a compensation of Rs 20,000 per acre for cotton-pickers.
Jora Singh, state president of the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, said though it was a welcome move, but it would be interesting to see how rapidly the state government comes up with the final draft.
“The government has already delayed compensation to farm labourers. The government must cover social and financial parameters before finalising any policy for them,” Singh said.