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Failure to include clause delays Punjab farmer’s debt-waiver scheme

Pankaj Dhiman | Chandigarh |

The Punjab government’s much-touted farmer debt waiver scheme is set to get delayed as the self-declaration of land holdings by individuals is yet to be made a part of the policy. Sources said that the cooperative banks have been asked to provide the details of income taxpayers, pensioners and government employees having taken a debt and to be excluded from the debt waiver scheme.

They said that the complete information regarding landholding would take a lot of time to compile, in case people do not come forward to make self-declarations. “We are working on the modalities as how the self-declaration be made transparent.

In case people would not make self-declaration, we will need to ascertain the facts from various departments,” sources said.”The data from the secretaries of the co-operative societies could not be relied upon as they were all appointed by previous government. Self-declarations, followed by random checks, would ensure a fool-proof mechanism to plug any loopholes in the farm debt waiver scheme,” said a senior bureaucrat requesting anonymity.

Congress legislator Kuljit Singh Nagra told The Statesman that there were many big farmers who had transferred a small part of their big land holding to their family members to take benefit of the co-operative loans, resulting in waiver of their loans despite their huge land holdings.

“Some big farmers who have huge land holding in neighbouring state, Rajasthan but their land holdings in Punjab are less than 2.5 acres in Bathinda and they had been included in the debt waiver. This had led to resentment,” the officials said, adding self-declaration is a much needed step in such cases.

On the other hand, the farmers who have been holding protests in various districts of the state under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), termed the scheme as a non-starter.
“The government is delaying the process of farmer debt relief while making the paperwork more complex. It had promised the complete loan waiver in poll manifesto but failed to deliver the same till date,” BKU leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said.

Earlier, the Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Amarinder Singh had made it clear that such self-declaration should relate to the farmers’ land holdings in villages in Punjab as well as in other states. The state government had identified 5.63 Lakh farmers, who had taken loan of nearly Rs 2,700 Crore from cooperative institutions, as beneficiaries for disbursement of the debt waiver certificates in the first of the four planned phases for completion of the entire process. The process of verification had been completed for 3.20 Lakh farmers. Over one Lakh cases with loans to worth Rs 748 Crore had been approved in the state.