CHANDIGARH: Questioning the relevance and functioning of the Expert Group set up by the Amarinder Singh government to find ways and means for farm debt waiver, senior politician and former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha, BirDevinder Singh today said its term of two months came to an end today without any tangible, visible results.
"The ‘expert group’ was given 60 days to submit its report (and that time frame) stands expired today. I expected the experts to have completed their research and done thorough home work by now in view of the horrendously compelling circumstances entailing unabated suicides of the hapless farmers," BirDevinder Singh.
He said it was a travesty of procedure that the ‘expert group’ was soliciting the views of the farmers' organizations even today (June 15), the last day of its tenure.
"Therefore, it seems certain that Punjab government is not going to announce any kind of complete ‘debt waiver’ in the current budget session of the state Assembly under the excuse that the report of the ‘Expert Group’ under the Chairmanship of Dr. T Haque is yet awaited," BirDevinder, a former Congressman, said.
Raising another controversial issue, BirDevinder said one of the members of the group, Dr. PK Joshi, "must immediately disassociate himself" from the exercise "for his biased and explicit opposition to the Punjab farmer’s debt waiver."
He said Dr Joshi, Director (South Asia) at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Delhi, "has already vehemently expressed his categorical opposition to the idea of debt waiver to Punjab farmers" in an article in a leading newspaper last month.
Since Dr Joshi "is of the considered opinion that Punjab farmers would benefit more if the state government subsidized the adoption of appropriate technology and diversification of crops" and has an obdurate view about the need and efficacy of the debt waiver, there can be little hope of this "much hyped expert group."
"Probity demands that Dr. PK Joshi must immediately disassociate himself" on his own, he stressed.
Also, he added, the state government was sitting on empty coffers and will resort to Machiavellian mechanisms to delay the matter inordinately. "It may constitute another ‘Review Committee’ of some renowned economists to further examine the financial feasibility of the report of the ‘Expert Group’ if at all submitted, in the near future," he said.
Photo caption -- Members of the Expert Group at Kisan Bhawan today where they met leaders of various farmers' unions.