Having defaulted in re-payment of farm loans and got further burdened under the burden of unpaid bank loans, Punjab farmers are set to hit the road in order to make ruling Congress' fulfill its promise for a 'total' farm loan waiver.
Under the banner of various farmer unions, farmers intend to hold protests next month to demand total farm loan waiver as promised by chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
"As farm loan waiver announced by state government will only cover farmers who have taken loans up to Rs 2 lakh, it will not benefit more than 30 per cent of farmers. What about other farmers ? Believing Capt Amarinder's pre-poll promise for a total farm loan waiver, farmers stopped repaying their loans. Now if these loans are not waived off, it's all the more difficult for farmers to repay the loan amount," said a farmer and Bharti Kisan Union (Kadian) leader from Jalandhar, Amrik Singh.
He said due to farm loan waiver, farmers have been caught in a vicious circle as they can neither re-pay loans nor take fresh loans as being a defaulter has made them ineligible for further loans from banks.
"Earlier farmers used to pay their loans in time in order to become eligible for further farm loans. But of late farmers stopped paying back farm loans as they thought government will waive them off. So their budget for repayment of loans have gone haywire. Now from where can a farmer get the money to repay the loan even if he wishes to ?," Singh added.
A group of four farmers unions — Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) Kadian, BKU (Ekta Sidhupur), Pagri Sambhal Jatta and Doaba Sangarsh Committee – held a meeting in Chandigarh on Tuesday and decided to stage protest next month against the state as well as Centre government to demand farm loan waive and implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report.
Seven farmer unions — BKU (Ekta Ugrahan), BKU (Dakonda), BKU (Krantikari), Kirti Kisan Union, Krantikari Kisan Union, Kisan Sangharsh Committee, and Kisan Sangharsh Committee (Azad) — will also hold a maha (massive) rally in Barnala on 22 August.
"Farmers are in crisis and there is no hope for them as the Congress government is running away from its promise for a total farm loan waiver. So farmers will have come together to make the government fulfill its promise for farm loan waiver," said the BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) chief, Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan. Punjab government's farm loan waiver scheme will cover only small and marginal farmers (up to 5 acres) having loans up to Rs.Two lakh.