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One year of Capt Amarinder government: Year of tokenism for farm sector in Punjab

With empty coffers, the government fell back on the Akali-BJP government’s method of pledging rural development funds to raise waiver money.

punjab Updated: Mar 11, 2018 17:08 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab chief minister,Captain Amarinder Singh,One year of captain govt
Waiver restricted to farmers with a landholding of up to 5 acres.(HT File Photo)

The Congress promised complete debt waiver to farmers but on coming to power it announced a watered down version.

The waiver was restricted to small and marginal farmers, ie those with a land holding of 2.5 to 5 acres and up to 2.5 acres, respectively. Farmers paying income tax and having other jobs or getting pension from public sector undertakings were not eligible for the waiver.

STATUS CHECK
  • PROMISE: Complete debt waiverSTATUS: List of beneficiaries restricted to small and marginal farmers
  • PROMISE: Amendment in Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act:STATUS: Though it was proposed to open up the Punjab fruit, vegetable and foodgrain market by amending the APMC Act, it was done partially. Niti Aayog asked Punjab to open up the state’s food market recently but a major sale of farm produce is still controlled by the Punjab Mandi Board.
  • PROMISE: Crop diversificationSTATUS: Discussed by experts and the government, big promises made but no headway.

With empty coffers, the government fell back on the Akali-BJP government’s method of pledging rural development funds to raise waiver money.

In the first rollout in January, the government gave away Rs 170 crore to 47,000 farmers. The process was mired in controversy with Congress MLAs complaining of farmers loyal to the Akali Dal getting preference and chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh admitting the lapse. It’s decided to involve MLAs for certifying “genuine beneficiaries” so now 1.1 lakh farmers in both categories will get Rs 580 crore.

“Things are moving in the right direction, though gradually. Debt waiver has begun and we have amended the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), the way the (state) government found it right. Crop diversification is an ongoing process,” says additional chief secretary (development) Vishavjeet Khanna.

Cold shoulder from Centre

When the state government recently sought a Central package to tide over the agrarian crisis on the plea that Punjab has fed the nation, Niti Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar asked the state to look beyond the nation’s food security and look at means to help its peasantry.

The government found it tough to fulfil National Green Tribunal norms for zero stubble burning, post the paddy harvest last year. An estimated 130 lakh tonnes of stubble was burnt and North India was in a haze. In the absence of funds, a solution is still not in sight.

First Published: Mar 11, 2018 09:47 IST