New Delhi, March 24: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a special central government package to provide one-time loan waiver to the beleaguered, debt-ridden farmers of Punjab.
Amarinder, who met the Prime Minister on Wednesday at his Parliament House office, said the meeting was a courtesy call, during which the issue of farm debt waiver was also discussed.
The Chief Minister said though he had sought financial assistance from the central government, his government was committed to waiver of the farmers’ loans in the state and had already initiated a time-bound process for the same.
Expressing concern over the recent spate of farmer suicides in his state, Amarinder said he had requested the Prime Minister to announce a special package to pull the farmers of Punjab out of the debt-trap.
“The mounting farm debts was making agriculture in Punjab increasingly unsustainable, endangering not only the food security of the nation but also the social fabric of this sensitive border state,” Amarinder pointed out.
Green Revolution state Punjab contributes 50 per cent food grains to the central kitty despite having just 1.54 per cent of the geographical area of the country.
In recent years, hundreds of farmers in the agrarian state have committed suicide due to increasing debt and dwindling land holding.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister said the total farm debt in Punjab amounted to over Rs 80,000 crore, including the crop loans in the cooperative sector amounting to about Rs 12,500 crore.
“The average debt per farm household in Punjab works out to be Rs 8 lakh (including crop loan), while the state’s per hectare debt of small and marginal farmers was the highest in India,” he pointed out.
“The problem had become so severe that many farmers were driven to suicide to escape the social and moral consequences of not being able to repay their debts,” the letter stated.
Citing data, the Chief Minister said the state had produced a record 160.50 lakh tonnes of wheat during 2016-17, of which 108.24 lakh tonnes was procured for the central pool.
Despite the prevailing drought-like situation, Punjab also produced a record 186.76 lakh tonnes of paddy during 2016 and procured 143.33 lakh tonnes for the central pool.
“Despite their contribution, farmers were suffering from the woes of increasing costs, shrinking resource base and declining incomes, leading to accumulation of debt burden of the Punjab farmers, especially the small farmers,” Amarinder Singh said.
“While these factors had forced the farmers into a vicious debt trap, the rising agricultural subsidies and deteriorating natural resources were further aggravating the state’s agricultural woes,” the Chief Minister added.