Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday raised the issue of the economic plight of the debt-ridden farmers of Punjab at a meeting with PM Narendra Modi.
Amarinder, who was part of the Congress delegation led by party national vice president Rahul Gandhi, said farmers, burdened with loans, were committing suicide in Punjab and other parts of the country.
Talking to mediapersons after the meeting at Parliament House, Captain Amarinder said the problems of the farmers were being compounded by the manner in which agricultural issues, including MSP, were being handled by the Food Corporation of India (FCI).
Captain said the Congress had sought the prime minister’s support to alleviate the debt and other woes of the farmers. The Prime Minister, he said, assured to look into the matter.
Amarinder said he had spoken at the meeting about the farmers’ plight in Punjab while other leaders from Uttar Pradesh had highlighted the situation in their state.
Responding to questions from mediapersons, Capt said the demonetisation had aggravated the problems of the farmers. In Punjab, where farmers were totally dependant on cooperative banks for their cash requirements, 7,000 of the 12,700 villages had no bank branches or ATMs, he pointed out, asking the Modi government how the farmers could be expected to survive in such a situation.
Reacting to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s claim that the post-demonetisation situation in the country would stabilize in another 2-3 weeks, Capt said he did not see the situation improving even in the next one year.
In a statement later, he said the gravity of the situation in Punjab could be gauged from the fact that 33 lakh farmers had signed the debt waiver forms under his party’s `Karza Kudki Khatam, Fasal Di Poori Rakam’ campaign, which had evoked massive response from the farming community, including farm labourers.
Amarinder made it clear that even if the Modi government failed to extend any support, he was committed to waiving off the loans of the farmers in the state. Neither the farmers nor the arhtiyas would would have to pay a single penny out of their pockets to settle the outstanding loans, he promised.
The plight of the farmers in Punjab, said Captain Amarinder, had been worsened by the Badal government’s anti-farmer policies and actions, including massive bungling in procurement, non-payment of dues to farmers, procurement at lower than MSP and delayed harvesting in border areas due to evacuation triggered by BJP-led war hysteria
He said given the huge savings earned by the central government in oil subsidy, waiver of loans of the farmers should not be a problem. The BJP government at the Centre had waived off loans of industrialists to the tune of Rs. 110,000 crores, he pointed out, adding that the same could be done for the poor farmers, for whom it was a matter of life and death.