Haque panel to look into farm labourers’ loans in Punjab
The move comes in the backdrop of criticism being faced by the Punjab government for leaving out agricultural labourers from its farm-debt write-off scheme.punjab Updated: Jul 08, 2017 11:16 IST
With the Capt Amarinder Singh-Congress government facing flak for leaving out agricultural labourers from its Rs 9,500 crore write-off, the expert group on farm debt said it would look into their loans.
Dr T Haque, who heads the three-member expert panel set up by the Punjab government to assess the quantum of debt and give suggestions for its waiver, said the group would examine the crisis being faced by agricultural labourers and tenant farmers to suggest measures needed to mitigate their problems.
“I will be travelling to Amritsar, Bathinda and other areas after July 15 to interact with farmers and agricultural labourers for deeper understanding of their problems. The CM has also asked us to examine this,” he told Hindustan Times over phone.
The move comes in the backdrop of criticism being faced by the state government for leaving out agricultural labourers from its farm-debt write-off scheme. Amarinder had on June 19 announced to waive crop loans up to Rs 2 lakh of over in the state. The CM made the announcement on recommendations given in the “interim report of expert group and finance minister Manpreet Badal followed it up by allocating Rs 1,500 crore for the first year.
As the Congress had in its poll manifesto for the assembly polls promised to write off debt of all farmers and agricultural labourers, the government’s failure to provide any relief to the latter drew instant flak. The Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union has expressed disappointment and sought waiver of loans of agricultural labourers. Their number is estimated to be around 15 lakh. Though there is no precise data, a recent study that surveyed 301 labourer families put the average debt of an indebted agricultural labour household Rs 68,329.
Haque, former chairman of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), said there was no data available on loans of landless agricultural labourers. “They have negligible borrowings from banks and most of them take loans from arhtiyas (commission agents) or private moneylenders, but we will try to look at their debt-related debt difficulties in our final report and see how to give relief to them and farmers in other categories,” he said.
The expert group, which has been granted two more months to submit its final report, will also give its suggestions for farm sector revival and finding resources for debt waiver. “Loan waiver is just one part. As agriculture is a losing proposition, there is need to develop rural industry, give employment to youth and ensure remunerative prices for produce,” he said.
The expert group, headed by Haque, has Pramod Kumar Joshi, director-South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute and BS Dhillon, vice-chancellor of the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, as members.