Sangrur, December 24: A debt waiver of Rs 28,000 from the state government has failed to provide any relief to Bhagwan Chand of Balian village, who owes Rs 6 lakh to an arhtiya and Rs 1.50 lakh to a bank. The meagre waiver was not even enough to cover the interest cost for a year.

“I own only 1.5 acres of land and I am hardly able to meet the basic needs of my family. A major portion of my debt was used for agricultural purposes only. I should have got a waiver of at least of Rs 2 lakh. The Congress government has betrayed us by getting our votes with the promise of a complete debt waiver,” he said.

Bhagwan Chand represents the sentiments of Punjab farmers, who were promised a complete debt waiver before the elections, but got only a marginal relief.

As per their claim, the vicious cycle of debt in the farm sector is likely to worsen in the near future as after the announcement of a complete waiver, farmers stopped repaying their debt to banks and moneylenders, which lead to the mounting of their loans.

The announcement of waiver of only crop loan up to Rs 2 lakh also led to souring of farmers’ relations with moneylenders and banks.

An elderly farmer of the same village, Jagrup Singh, who also owns 1.5 acres of land, said he had got a waiver of Rs 30,000, while he still owed Rs 2.50 lakh to a bank and Rs 50,000 to a moneylender.

“The waiver has, in fact, multiplied our problems since moneylenders have increased the rate of interest for future debt and bank officials have intensified their efforts for the recovery of debt. Since we cannot undertake farming without debt, we have no option, but to pay a higher rate of interest these days,” Rajpal Singh, a farmer from Mangwal village.

During an interaction with The Tribune, farmers from Mangwal, Balian, Thalesa, Ladda, Bhalwan and Khurana villages expressed their anguish, all saying that the waiver had made no difference.

They also rued that while the government had failed to bring about a positive change in the agriculture sector, the vocation was becoming a costly affair with each passing year.

“Till three years back, the per acre cost of wheat production was around Rs 6,000, but now it is around Rs 7,500 and for paddy, we have to spend Rs 10,000 per acre. In the absence of any financial support from the government, how can we continue farming?” said Pardeep Singh of Ladda village.

Cabinet Minister and Sangrur MLA Vijay Inder Singla said his government was taking the required steps for the welfare of farmers. “The government is in the process of preparing more farmer-friendly policies,” said Singla.

Scheme launched in January

The Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government had disbursed Rs 3,595 crore to 4,28,246 farmers in the first phase of the crop loan waiver rolled out in January this year. This included Rs 1,815 crore to 3,17,965 farmers, who had taken loan from cooperative banks. In the second phase of the scheme launched this month from Patiala, the government has initiated the process to give benefit to 1,59,632 small farmers, who owe money to commercial banks operating in Punjab.

Source Tribune India

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