Chandigarh, Apr 20: Senior Congress leader and Kisan-Khet Mazdoor Congress chairman Shamsher Singh Surjewala has sought a special package for mitigating the suffering of the farmers in North India on the lines of the one announced by the Centre for the peasants in South India recently.
Mr Surjewala has made an appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to provide a similar package for the farmers of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
The demand follows a recent announcement by Mr Pawar of a package for Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra in the wake of reports of suicides by farmers. The package would cover areas of rural credit, crop insurance and irrigation among other things.
In a statement, Mr Surjewala said a similar package was required for North India in view of the grave condition of rural indebtedness and farmer suicides.
Mr Surjewala said he had also called an urgent meeting of farmer leaders of North Indian states at New Delhi on April 11 wherein it was decided to press for a special package, keeping the following factors in view.
--Rate of bank interest on agriculture credit must be brought down to 5-6 percent. NABARD should be directed to play the role of a provider, facilitator and regulator in this regard.
--Existing 'Crop Insurance Scheme' should be amended to make 'village as a unit' for the purpose of compensation in place of 'block being a unit'.
A special comprehensive package should be prepared for ensuring personal insurance of farmers and farm workers, besides the crop insurance. This can mitigate the hardships of families of suicide victims to a great extent. -- A scheme for one time settlement of old agricultural debts be framed by constituting 'Debt Settlement Boards'. Centre and states should form a special kitty for helping those farmers/farm labourers, who have no means for clearance of such dues.
-- A scheme be prepared for compulsory registration of private money lending business, which till date forms over 60 per cent of the total agricultural credit. Such scheme must provide for (i) a particular ceiling on the interest that can be charged on the credit extended by a private money lender; (ii) compulsory maintenance of accounts of each creditor and (iii) compulsory issuance of receipts of payment received from debtors from time to time.
A deterrent penalty for default should be included in the above scheme, and if need be, a law should be enacted.
-- Sale of adulterated diesel and spurious seeds, pesticides, fetilisers etc has become the bane of agricultural economy.
Urgent amendments should be introduced in law making sale of such adulterated and spurious items an offence punishable with minimum imprisonment of ten years and onus of proof shifting on such dealer on receipt of a preliminary report of sample in this regard.
-- A fresh look should be made at the present mechanism for determination of 'Minimum Support Price' (MSP) by linking it to ever-increasing costs of agricultural inputs and adding an additional 10-15 per cent as sustenance amount.
Mr Surjewala said a deputation of farmers of North-Indian States would meet the UPA Chairperson, the Prime Minister and the Union Agriculture Minister shortly to press for the grant of the package.
He said he had also written letters to Chief Ministers of Haryana and Punjab to take up the matter with the Centre.