Badal to waive off farmers' loan if elected to power
Chandigarh, July 3 (UNI) Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Parkash Singh Badal today said his party would completely waive off farmers' loans in Punjab if it came to power in the Febuary 2007 state assembly elections.
The refusal of the Prime Minister to announce a waiver of agricultural loan for Punjab farmers as a first priority was one more instance of the utter neglect of the state by the Congress governments in the state and the Centre, Mr Badal said in a statement issued here.
Mr Badal said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had hurt the beleaguered Punjab farmers by refusing to accord top priority in announcing a relief package on waiving off debt. He also held Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh directly responsible for ''low priority given to Punjab which has not only led the nation in agriculturel but also become the largest contributor to the national foodgrain pool.
Mr Badal said Punjab was the worst sufferer in the matter of farmers' suicides owing to economic hardships in which rural indebtedness was the main factor. He said the total debt liability on the state farmers was Rs 24000 crores at the start of this year and it was likely to go up to Rs 32000 crores towards the end of the year.
The present level of indebtedness in the state was so high that each farming family faced a debt liability of Rs 2.4 lakh while this could go up to Rs 3.2 lakh per family by December 2006.
Mr Badal said that the main reason for the rising tragedy of the Punjab farmers were the punishingly anti-farmer policies of the successive Congress regimes, with the present government proving to be the worst.
Mr Badal quoted figures of the Punjab Agricultural University and World Bank experts to prove that agriculture had been thrown into unprecedented crisis under the present dispensation. For the first time, the gross farm income in the state had come down from Rs 15262 crores last year to Rs 15200 crores in 2005-2006. Accounting for inflation of 5.5 per cent the actual decline could be much higher, he said.
Conversely, Mr Badal said, the Gross Expenditure on agriculture by state farmers had registerd an increase of Rs 3700 crores. The hike in diesel prices alone accounted from Rs 1700 crore of additional expenditure. Mr Badal said that while diesel was available to the Punjab frmers at Rs 17.50 (peak price) during the NDA regime, its price had doubled during the Congress regime at the centre and stood at Rs 32.50 per litre.
He said according to the government's own statistics, the farm input costs had gone up by 80 per cent during the Manmohan Singh regime.
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