Punjab farmers debt ridden

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Chandigarh, Mar 31 : Farmers of Punjab, the wheat bowl of India, are also more debt ridden when compared to agriculturists in other states of the country.

The debt burden in Punjab far outstrips the national average. Figures divulge that Punjab has an agrarian per capita debt of 1,025 US dollars in contrast to the national per capita debt of 300 US dollars.

They hope that the loan waiver' announced by the Centre for farmers would be implemented early, and ways would be found to provide relief for the farmers who have taken loans from the moneylenders.

As of now, under the present scheme farm loans granted by scheduled commercial banks and co-operatives would be waived. Will the 15 billion US dollar scheme finally put an end to the woes of the Punjab farmers who are forced to commit suicides?

The farmers took loans for buying pesticides to obtain a better yield. And why not, many ask. They also want the State to publicise the details of the scheme to enable all to benefit for it.

Mukesh Chand Sharma has to settle his bank loan of 4,500 US dollars. A small farmer in Punjab's Morinda district, Mukesh owns two acres of land and is uneasy about repaying the credit.

His hopes only came alive after the Government announced the Loan Waiver Scheme', a bonanza for debt-ridden farmers.

"If our farm loans are waived off, it would bring immense respite. A proper list of debt-ridden farmers should be made and the record sent to the banks. The banks might give up our loans and hand over our papers with proper certificates. Proper loan waiving information should be forwarded to tehsils or city headquarters, so that we can easily sell our farmland. What else could we expect?," said Mukesh.

The only setback faced by a majority of debt-ridden farmers is the fact that the scheme does not favour those who borrowed money from traditional moneylenders in the unorganized sector.

"If the state is eager to ensure the well being of the farming community and particularly marginal and small farmers, rather than these one time steps, they should restructure the process. So that the conditions, which time and again jam it, this kind of frustrates amongst the farming community. Those conditions stand altered and there is some sort of minimum income guarantee that is available to these people," A C Julka, an economist.

If the loan waiver scheme' is implemented successfully, probably farmers' suicides will reduce considerably.

A status us report filed by the Punjab Government to the Centre, reveals that 2116 villagers had committed suicide from 1988 to 2004.

The Punjab Government has been trying to find ways how to help the farming community emerge from the debt trap.

"Considering how the government can help people who have gone through this kind of stress, we might be in a position to give them some relief. But, also in the long term, the family, which has lost the sole breadwinner, they could be given, may be a lifetime pension or something. But, this is some policy, which Punjab is considering and whatever I think we come up with is going to be pathbreaking for the rest of the nation, "said Manpreet Badal, Finance Minister, Punjab.

It's a major respite for the entire farming community, the country's main food producers, as the government has finally listened to their woes.

Now these hapless folk are waiting patiently to have the burden of debt off their backs.

ANI

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