Chandigarh, December 17-In a major step to safeguard the interests of the farmers and farm labours across the state, the Punjab Chief Minister Mr. Parkash Singh Badal today announced to present the draft bill on ‘Debt Determination and Settlement’ in the ensuing session of Punjab Vidhan Sabha.
While presiding over a high level meeting with the representatives of 12 farmers and farm labour unions here at Punjab Bhawan this morning, the Chief Minister said that this legislation would go a long way in providing much needed reprieve to the debt-stressed peasantry by regulating the system of private money lending.
Taking part in the deliberations, the Chief Minister assured the members of the delegation that the Punjab government had already taken up the matter of procurement at Minimum Support Price (MSP) and Public Stock holding of food grains for food security of the nation with the Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, Union Agriculture Minister Mr. Radha Mohan Singh and Union Commerce & Industry Minister Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman to seek Centre’s support for taking up these concerns during the ongoing 10th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference at Nairobi (Kenya) so as to safeguard the interests of small and resource poor farmers of the country especially Punjab.
The Chief Minister also asked the Financial Commissioner Cooperation to take up the issue of conversion of loans advanced to the farmers from Cooperative Banks with NABARD to make them affordable in order to reduce the interest burden on account of its conversion from short to medium term loans
The Chief Minister assured to compensate the farmers for the loss of crops due to natural calamities as the state government was pro-actively pursuing the case of plot based crop insurance with the Centre for its prompt implementation, whereas now only relief in terms of input purchase was provided under ‘Disaster Management Act, 2005’.
Responding to another issue for immediate payment to the cane growers during the ongoing crushing season, the Chief Minister apprised the delegation that sugar mills would make regular payment to the farmers at Rs.295 per quintal, of which Rs.50 per quintal would be paid directly to the farmers by the state government and remaining Rs.245 per quintal by the sugarcane mills.
To ensure procurement of crops at remunerative MSP, the Chief Minister reiterated that he would soon take up with Centre to recommend MSP for alternate crops like Basmati and Maize adding he said the state government had been constantly pleading with GoI to implement Swaminathan formula thus allowing the farmers to get MSP which should cover production costs plus 50%.
To effectively combat the menace of stray dogs especially in villages, the Chief Minister asked the departments of Rural Development & Panchayats and Animal Husbandry to jointly chalk out a time bound action plan. Mr. Badal also apprised the delegation that cattle ponds over an area 25 acre Panchayati land were being constructed by the Rural development & Panchayats department to keep stray cattle there in order to protect the standing crops from colossal damage and loss to human lives. The state government had already released Rs.11.16 crore for the construction of such ponds in every district to house nearly 2000 stray cattle in each pond.
The Chief Minister also informed the farmers’ associations that a subsidy of Rs.23 crore out of total Rs.30.47 crore had already been credited to the bank accounts of farmers in lieu of the purchase of 3.05 lakh quintal certified wheat seed till December 15, 2015 under the newly introduced ‘Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme’. This has been primarily implemented to check inordinate delay in disbursement of subsidy on one hand and ensure the right beneficiary gets the payment on the other. It may be recalled that the state government had allowed the farmers to purchase requisite quantity of certified wheat seed on their own at subsidy of Rs.1000 per quintal.
Regarding the enactment of Punjab Prevention of Damage to Public & Private Property Bill, 2014, Mr. Badal told the delegation that state government would only proceed further after having detailed consultations with their representatives and asked the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) to interact with these representatives designated by the unions of the farmers and farm labors in this regard.
Expressing deep concern over rise in the cases of farm suicides, the Chief Minister asked the Revenue department to open a special cell to process the cases for disbursing compensation in a fast track mode, to the next of the kin of the farmers who ended their lives in distress
On the issue of disbursement of compensation to the cotton pickers in the cotton belt affected by white fly attack, the Chief Minister informed that Revenue Department had already sanctioned and released Rs. 64 Cr. for this purpose to the concerned districts. Mr. Badal said the only problem which has caused delay in disbursement of relief to the farm labours was their proper identification for which he asked the Additional Chief Secretary Revenue to immediately to issue instructions to the Deputy Commissioners to accomplish the complete the task of disbursement within in a month.
The Chief Minister also informed the delegation that after getting green signal from National Green Tribunal (NGT), the PSPCL has already issued a notification for new tubewell connections thereby reserving 75% connections for the farmers holding land up to five acres. He asked the Chairman PSPCL to initiate the process to release the tubewell connections shortly as per the policy guidelines.
Prominent amongst others who attended the meeting included Advisor to Chief Minister on National Affairs and Media Mr. Harcharan Bains, Additional Chief Secretary Development Mr. Suresh Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary Revenue Mr. Karan Avtar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary Home Mr. Jagpal Singh Sandhu, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister -cum-Financial Commissioner Cooperation Mr. SK Sandhu, DGP Intelligence Mr. Anil Sharma, Principal Secretary Rural Development Mr. Roshan Sunkaria, Principal Secretary Finance Mr. DP Reddy, Secretary Food & Civil Supplies Mr. Kamal Chaudary, CMD PSPCL Mr. KD Chaudary and Commissioner Agriculture Dr. BS Sidhu.