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Punjab farm debt waiver: Haque panel to submit interim report this week

The Congress had, in its manifesto for the February 4 assembly election, promised waiver of farmers’ debt.

punjab Updated: Jun 11, 2017 21:05 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Farm debt waiver,Dr T Haque,Punjab government
(HT Representative Image)

As pressure is mounting on the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress government to announce a loan waiver for the state farmers, the expert group assessing the quantum of agriculture debt said it would submit an “interim” report this week.

Dr T Haque, who heads the expert group, said the group would give the interim report to the state government before June 17, but needed more time for detailed findings and recommendations. “We need to analyse the agriculture situation in detail, look at financial condition of farmers and interact with them before submitting the final report,” he told Hindustan Times over phone, refusing to disclose contents.

The Congress had, in its manifesto for the February 4 assembly election, promised waiver of farmers’ debt. On coming to power, it set up the expert group on April 15 to assess the quantum of debt and suggest ways and means for its waiver, asking the panel to give its report within 60 days.

There is pressure on the state government to make an announcement as debt-ridden farmers continue to end life despite the waiver promise. “We will definitely do something on debt write-off in the budget within available resources,” said a top bureaucrat, requesting anonymity. Already, there are indications from the state top brass that the government may announce relief for marginal and small farmers, earmarking Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 crore.

Asked if the panel made any suggestion on loan waiver of small and marginal farmers, Haque, an expert on agricultural economics and development, said no recommendation had been made so far. “When we give our report, there will be something for everyone. We have asked for segment-wise agriculture loan-related information from nationalised, private and cooperative banks, as data submitted by them was not clear. They are still to supply it,” he said.

The former chairman of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) said the panel would also give suggestions for revival of farm sector as debt write-off was only a temporary solution. The expert group 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.

Officials pegged the total debt of about 10 lakh state farmers at Rs 90,000 crore up to March 31, 2016, with 20% of them owing as much as 75% of it.

First Published: Jun 11, 2017 20:59 IST