Farmers' suicide cases: Punjab govt alters compensation policy for 5th time since 2001

  • Navrajdeep Singh, Hindustan Times, Patiala
  • Updated: Jul 23, 2015 08:49 IST

Even though the SAD-BJP government has come up with fresh relief package to compensate affected families of farmers who have committed suicide, it has failed to heal their scar. Ironically, it is for the fifth time that the Punjab government has given its nod to compensation policies since 2001.

The earlier declared compensation policies by various governments have not been implemented and have been dumped by respective Congress and SAD-BJP governments over the years.

As per the new relief policy, the family members of farmers who have committed suicide will be given monetary assistance of Rs 3 lakh.

However, if experts are to be believed, the new policy may give relief to the families of farmers who commit suicide in the near future, but case for rehabilitation of the families who have already suffered remains bleak.

Ironically, the respective governments, be it Congress or SAD-BJP, had come up with policies regarding compensation just before the year of assembly elections, raising questions of seriousness and intentions of the politicians.

"All farmer suicide related policies are politically motivated, as the respective governments are used to play with emotions of affected families," said Inderjit Singh Jaijee, author of "Debt and Death in Rural India".

"Is it possible for the aggrieved families to take dead bodies from remote areas to hospitals situated 50-60 km away, especially for post-mortem - which is one of the clauses mentioned in the new policy," Jaijee argued.

"What can one expect from the government which has no money to conduct fresh survey? Can it give the promised amount this time," he questioned.

Kesar Singh Bhangoo, agriculture economist at Punjabi University, said the compensation under new
policy was not enough as the government must come up with long-term rehabilitation measures.

"Besides drawing mechanism to waive off loans of the victims' families, the government should have increased compensation to Rs 5 lakh, besides providing government job to one of the kin and ensuring education of family members in such cases," he said.

Earlier policies

In 2001, before the 2002 elections, the then chief minister Prakash Singh Badal announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh, which was never given. The government then announced the relief package without having any record of number of cases, due to which not even a single victim was paid monetary assistance.

In 2007, during the Congress regime, former chief minister captain Amarinder Singh constituted a Farmers' Commission and announced to give Rs 50,000 and a monthly pension of Rs 1500, but he failed to meet his promise.

However, after resuming power, the then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal refused the proposal floated by the Congress government and re-implemented its 2001 policy of giving monetary assistance of Rs 2.5 lakh, but again failed to implement it.

In 2012, the SAD-BJP government reduced the relief amount from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh and started making the payments in two installments on the basis of survey report of three of the state universities-Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; Punjabi University, Patiala and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar-- which stated 6,926 cases of farmers' suicide from 2000 to 2011, including 3,954 farmers and 2,972 of farm labourers across the state.

As per available information, the government has denied compensation to 2,240 such families, on the ground that these families didn't fall in line of compensatory policy since there was no loan pending against the deceased.

"All farmer suicide related policies are politically motivated, as the respective governments are used to play with emotions of affected families" --Inderjit Singh Jaijee, author of "Debt and Death in Rural India".

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