Punjab farmers reject debt waiver scheme, begin 5-day protest
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Punjab farmers reject debt waiver scheme, begin 5-day protest

Unrest: Alloted protest site at Mehmudpur village, 10 km from Patiala on the road to Sangrur, farmers say govt’s scheme benefits only a small number of farmers, also demand help for affordable alternative to stubble-burning.

punjab Updated: Sep 23, 2017 10:12 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Patiala
farmer protest,Punjab farmers,debt waiver scheme
Farmers protest against the Punjab government at Mehmudpur near Patiala on Friday.(Bharat Bhushan/HT)

Alloted protest site at Mehamudpur village on the Patiala-Sangrur road, 10 km from Patiala; protesters claim government move benefits only a small number of farmers

Patiala Rejecting the state government’s farm loan waiver scheme, claiming that it benefits only a small number of farmers, seven farmer organisations started a five-day protest at Mehamudpur village on Patiala-Sangrur road, 10km away from the city, on Friday. Around 5,000 farmers converged at the village on Friday, sources claimed.

“The government’s move will help only a small number of farmers while others continue to live in a state of distress.”

Joginder Singh Ugrahan, state president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), one of the organisations, behind the protest, said, “In its election manifesto, the Congress made tall claims of waiving loans of debt-ridden farmers. The scheme that the state Cabinet has approved is a farce and mocks at farmers.”

The protesting organisations are BKU (Ekta Ugarahan), BKU (Dakaunda), Kirti Kisan Union, Krantikari Kisan Union, BKU (Krantikari), Kisan Sangharsh Committee (Azad), and Kisan Sangharsh Committee (Pannu).

Notification covers landholdings up to 5 acres

The notification that the government has approved — the election commission of India has to approve it before it can be implemented — proposes writing-off crop loans worth Rs 2 lakh of small and marginal farmers with landholdings of up to five acres. The government will also give a relief of Rs 2 lakh to the remaining marginal farmers irrespective of the debt amount.

Farmers say, only small number covered

“The government’s move will help only a small number of farmers. Most others will continue to live in a state of distress, waiting for the government to waive their loans,” Ugrahan said. Farmers have also demanded that the state government fix a minimum support price (MSP) for all crops as per the recommendations of the Swaminathan committee report. Other demands are that all tenants and re-claimants be given ownership rights of the land they are cultivating, permanent arrangement of the stray and wild animals be made and adequate arrangement for disposal of paddy straw.

State president of BKU (Dakaunda), Buta Singh Burjgill, said farmers had no option, but to burn paddy straw unless and until the government provides monetary assistance to handle crop residues.

“Organisations are demanding Rs 200 per quintal of paddy yield for handling straw without burning it. The state agriculture department is only concentrating on issuing diktats to us to use to combines having Super Straw Management System (SMS) with self-propelled combine harvesters,” Burjgill added.

Heavy security cover

Even as the protest has been allowed, heavy security arrangements have been put in place to maintain law and order. Special check-posts have been set up on roads leading to Patiala from the protest venue to restrict movement of farmers towards the city.

“Though we are allotted protest site in the wilderness, but we will ensure that our voices be heard in residence of Captain Amarinder Singh at Patiala,” Ugrahan added.

Farm loan waiver process to start by Monday: Manpreet

Faridkot The Punjab government will start its farmer loan waiver process in the state by Monday, state finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal has said. Addressing a gathering on the annual Baba Farid Mela in Faridkot on Friday, Manpreet added that the government also wanted to give sugarcane farmers their due as the waiver will start from Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Ferozepur and Fazilka.

The state government has prepared a notification that cannot be issued until the election commission of India clears it, as the code of conduct is in place with the Gurdaspur bypoll scheduled for October 11.

‘Send children to school, even if you forego a meal’

Speaking at the inaugural session of the 50th Kisan Mela of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in Ludhiana, he said, farmers should rather forego a meal than not send their children to school.

“The state government has prepared a notification that cannot be issued until the EC clears it, as code of conduct is in place due to the Gurdaspur bypoll.”

“Education will open floodgates of opportunities for your children in diverse fields apart from agriculture,” he said, adding, “farmers must skip one meal to educate their wards”.

The real development, he said, is not in terms of silver roads and golden walls, but in income enhancement, and a happy and respectable life.

“Punjab may progress, but if its farmers are not happy, then state can never be happy,” he observed. The state has made substantial contribution in 70 years, but now farmers need to shift from paddy-wheat cycle to alternate crops, he added.

First Published: Sep 23, 2017 10:06 IST