Delay in debt waiver turning more Punjab farmers into defaulters, says panel
T Haque, former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), who heads the panel, in a briefing to chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, also asked the state government to raise funds for the waiver.Updated: Aug 02, 2017, 10:00 IST
The Punjab government-appointed expert panel on debt waiver has asked the government to start the debt waiver process early and begin passing benefit to the farmers “without wasting time”, as delay was leading to more farmers turning defaulters.
T Haque, former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), who heads the panel, in a briefing to chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, also asked the state government to raise funds for the waiver.
“We had a detailed discussion with the CM on how to raise funds to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore when the state had already crossed its borrowing limit,” said a panel member.
On Monday and Tuesday, members of the panel visited Amritsar and Ludhiana to meet farmers and know their side of story.
“A section of farmers is demanding complete waiver (as promised by Captain Amarinder Singh during poll campaign), another is satisfied with the interest waiver, but all were unanimous that whatever government does, be done without wasting time. Farmers have stopped paying their loans and more are turning defaulters,” said BS Dhillon, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) vice-chancellor.
Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, who was also part of the briefing with Haque, said the government was waiting for the panel to give a final report. “Exact figures of the loan to be waived off and the number of beneficiary farmers is to be known,” Manpreet added. The Haque panel is expected to give its final report in mid-August.
Just a few days ago, the State-Level Bankers Committee (SLBC), a consortium of 38 private and nationalised banks, funding the state’s farmers with crop loans and the Punjab State Cooperative Bank, a state-level funding agency, had flagged the issue that farmers had stopped repaying loans and debt had started piling up.
Procedure for debt waiver
As a first procedural step towards debt waiver, the government plans to link all Krishi Cards on which farmer gets crop loans from, banks, to their Aadhar numbers to check duplication and maintain record. The Haque panel gave an interim report on June 19 on the basis of which Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh made an announcement in the Vidhan Sabha to waive debt to the tune of Rs 9,500 crore, benefiting 10.5 lakh farmers. We want the exact number, it could be Rs 500-1,000 crore more or less than what was proposed in the interim report,” said Manpreet.