Punjab govt giving best deal under current fiscal circumstances: Farm debt waiver panel head

Agriculture expert and ex-chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) Dr T Haque, who headed a three-member committee to assess agriculture debt and suggest ways and means for its waiver, talks about his views on the scheme and subsequent reactions.

punjab Updated: Jan 10, 2018 13:45 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab govt,fiscal circumstances,Farm debt waiver
T Haque headed Punjab’s 3-member committee to assess farm debt and suggest ways for waiver.

The Congress government’s farm loan waiver scheme has left a section of the debt-ridden farmers disillusioned. A watered down scheme, delay in implementation and logistical glitches are not the only problems. The government hasn’t been able to give clarity on bank loans and the implementation timeframe. The opposition AAP and Akali Dal have rejected the scheme.

HT spoke to agriculture expert and ex-chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) Dr T Haque, who headed a three-member committee to assess agriculture debt and suggest ways and means for its waiver, for his views on the scheme and subsequent reactions.

Excerpts from the interview.

There is a mismatch between promise and policy. What do you think of the debt waiver scheme?

The scheme clearly reflects the intention of the government. If you compare it with similar debt waivers announced by the governments in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, the Punjab scheme is much better. Uttar Pradesh decided to write off loans up to Rs 1 lakh whereas it is up to Rs 2 lakh per farmer in Punjab. Then, the state has also decided to take over the outstanding crop loan from institutional sources of the families of all farmers who had committed suicide in the state.

Why are the farmers not happy with the scheme?

This is not true. The state government is facing financial constraints, but it has not let these come in the way of its debt waiver promise. This is the best it could do in the given circumstances. The government has made the start with outstanding crop loans of marginal farmers with cooperatives. It will take care of crop loans from banks too.

What about the measures suggested by your expert group for raising resources for the scheme?

Tax on liquor and bonds for non-resident Indians (NRIs) are some of the steps suggested in our report. Punjabis are doing extremely well abroad. The government has the option of floating long-term bonds to raise funds. I have been having discussions. It is considering various options.

The fund-starved state government has sought help from the Centre. Is there any progress?

We had looked at the financial situation. There was not much room for borrowing. The state government has requested the Centre for assistance, besides easing the borrowing cap. There has not been any response in giving financial help to the state on loan waiver.

Is loan waiver an answer to problem?

The farmers’ demands are genuine and they need support, but loan waiver alone cannot solve the problem. The cost of production is increasing and the returns are not adequate. A long-term strategy is needed to make agriculture sustainable.

First Published: Jan 10, 2018 13:45 IST