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Punjab farmer unions threaten indefinite stir

Pankaj Dhiman | Chandigarh |

Even as Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday promised total implementation of his party’s election promise on farm debt waiver, the state’s farmer unions have termed the move a ploy to cheat them and warned of an indefinite protest from 22 March in Chandigarh. The state Assembly’s budget session starts from 20 March.

The farmer leaders alleged that the promises being made by the state government on loan waiver have remained just on paper. They said that neither the Union government nor the state government has been able to implement total farm loan waiver.

“The Punjab government is making an eyewash by announcing first and second phase of farmer loan waivers. The claims are just on paper while the ground reality is something else. We are gathering in Chandigarh on 22 March to highlight state government’s failures on farm loan waiver. Even the Union government has failed to do so. The government had promised to implement the Swaminathan commission’s report in its election manifesto which yielded no results till date,” Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU-Rajewal), president, Balbir Singh Rajewal, told The Statesman.

On the other hand, BKU (Ekta) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokari said they will start the agitation in Chandigarh from 3 April while showing unhappiness towards the state government’s move on farm loan waiver.

“We are giving time to the state government to take a solid step during the upcoming budget session. The steps being taken by the state government on farm loan waiver are insufficient and just on paper. Over three lakh debt ridden farmers have committed suicide in the country”, he said.

The major unions participating in the nationwide protests are BKU (Ugrahan), BKU Ekta (Dakonda) and BKU (Krantikari). The Punjab government’s farm loan waiver scheme in its first phase envisages waiving loans of marginal farmers, having land up to 2.5 acres with a loan up to Rs 2 lakh.

Earlier, Amarinder Singh had appealed to the state’s farmers to shun the path of agitation, saying his government could not afford to waive off any more of their debt at the present juncture. The CM claimed that Punjab had waived more debts of its farmers than other states.

The CM had cited the examples of Maharashtra Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka to point to the extent to which his government had stretched itself to fulfill this important promise of the Congress to the farming community.