Farmers threaten to stage dharna before Moti Bagh Palace
Congress party’s endeavour to project itself as a pro-farmer on Wednesday suffered a setback as agriculturist in Punjab threatened to sit on a five-day dharna outside the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder’s Patiala residence - Moti Bagh Palace.
The decision was announced by the farmers’ outfits after their meeting with the three-member Cabinet Sub-Committee, comprising the State Finance Minister, Manpreet Badal, Local Government Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, and the Rural Development Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, ended on a disappointed note.
The growing discontentment stems from the fact that the State Government is yet to issue an official notification on farm loan waiver it had announced during the budget session in June, while the banks continue to harass them, and debt-ridden farmers taking the extreme steps.
As the Government expressed inability to issue notification for debt waiver, and asked for “more time” to implement its promise, the farmer organisations decided to stage a dharna from September 22.
During the meeting, the Sub-Committee, formed for the farm debt waiver and other pressing farmer-related issues, has maintained that the notification could only be issued after Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll, scheduled for October 11.
“We are disappointed with the members of the Cabinet Sub-Committee as the State Government has failed to issue notification on farm debt waiver which was the key promise of the Congress before Assembly elections,” Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakonda) president Buta Singh Burjwala said.
The farmers said that the agenda of the cabinet sub-committee meeting was farm debt waiver and accused the State Government of failing to take steps to waive farm debt despite some debt-ridden cultivators allegedly committing suicides in different parts of Punjab.
“We were demanding the notification of debt waiver. But we were told by the sub-committee that the State Government was still in the process of making arrangements of Rs 10,000 crore, an amount required to waive loans. We were told that it will take some more time for the Government,” Burjwala said.
The farmers also expressed displeasure with the sub-committee after seven farmers outfits were told that the notification could be made only after Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll, which would be held on October 11.
“They said that the code of conduct is now in place so the notification on debt waiver cannot be made now,” said Burjwala.
Punjab Government had promised total waiver of entire crop loans up to Rs 2 lakh for small and marginal farmers (up to five acres), and a flat Rs 2 lakh relief for all other marginal farmers.
BKU (Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh said that the seven farmers’ outfits would go ahead with proposed five-day long sit-in outside in Patiala from September 22 to press for their demands including complete debt waiver, implementation of the recommendations made in the Swaminathan Commission report.
Meanwhile, while talking to reporters after the meeting, State Finance Minister Manpreet Badal said the State Government was committed to implement farm debt waiver.
“The report of the T Haque committee has been received and it is now the responsibility of the Finance Department to make arrangements of Rs 10,000 crore for debt waiver and the Government was working in this direction,” he said.
He said the sub-committee would submit the report to the Cabinet for final decision.
Sidhu said the next and the final meeting of the sub-committee would now be held after Gurdaspur bypoll next month.
He said several issues of farmers were discussed in the meeting. “Farmers complained about compounding of interest on loan taken from commission agents. As a result of which, farmers had to pay several time more than what they has borrowed,” he said.
“We want to create a structure to end this problem of farmers,” Sidhu said while also trashing the reports regarding fixation of 18 per cent interest rate on loan taken from commission agents.
The farmers outfits which participated in the meeting are Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta), BKU (Dakonda), Kirti Kisan Union, Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Krantikari Kisan Union, BKU (Krantikari) and Kisan Sangharsh Committee (Azaad).
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