Having failed to provide compensation to the families of 4,500 farmers and farm labourers who committed suicide and were shortlisted in the surveys conducted from 2001-2011 by the three state universities, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has given the goahead to the constitution of another committee to “formulate a comprehensive policy” on farmer suicides in the state.
The committee will be headed by Punjab State Farmers Commission chairman GS Kalkat with financial commissioner revenue, financial commissioner development, secretary agriculture besides heads of the departments of economics and sociology from Punjab Agricultural University as members. The commissioner agriculture would be its convener, it was stated in an official release from the office of the chief minister on Wednesday.
The decision has not gone down well with agriculture experts and the farmer community, who feel this is just an excuse to deny compensation to the farmers/farm labourers who had committed suicide due to economic stress arising out of indebtedness.
Former PAU vice-chancellor MS Kang, taking a jibe at the state government on the word “comprehensive” used to formulate the new policy, said, “What could be more com-prehensive than the surveys carried out by the three state universities as they had thoroughly covered all districts of Punjab?”
He said the new committee could “not spell magic”.
The matter related to t he policy on farmers’ suicides was under the active consideration of the state government. It had earlier made a policy, which envisaged giving a lumpsum amount of Rs. 2 lakh to the next of the kin of the farmers who had committed suicide, due to economic stress arising out of indebtedness.
As had been reported in Hindustan Times in September 2013, Barnala, Bathinda, Mansa and Sangrur districts, which had the highest number of suicides, did not receive the complete funds allocated for the affected families.
PAU Kisan Club president Pavitar Pal Singh Pangli criticised the state government for constituting another committee.
“First, the compensation should have been given by now as the report of the universities was detailed and authentic. Second, the reports of so many committees have been gathering dust in the storerooms of the government departments as they have never been considered to for mulate a concrete policy. The real issue before the state is of missing opportunities in the agriculture sector for which the foremost plan should be to make legislation for curtailing the rate of interest for the loans given to the farmers,” Pangli observed.