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Around 430 small and marginal farmers and farm labourers in Punjab committed suicide in last one year: Bhartiya Kisan Union

Congress' farm loan waiver scheme does not seem to have helped the farmers in distress as they continue to take their lives, burdened by debt.

Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) has released new data stating that nearly 430 small and marginal farmers and farm labourers in Punjab committed suicide in last one year after the state government launched the third phase of loan waiver scheme, reported Indian Express.

According to the reports, BKU has released data compiled on the basis of the various revenue department and police records along with media reports, which says that around 98 per cent of the deceased farmers belonged to Malwa region of Punjab mainly from Mansa, Sangrur, Bathinda and Barnala districts. Most of these farmers had loans ranging from Rs 1 lakh to 20 lakh, said the BKU in its statement.

The Punjab government had launched the third phase of loan waiver scheme on Thursday for small farmers having land up to two hectares (5 acres). In the first two phases, the government had claimed to write-off loans of marginal farmers holding land up to one hectare.

Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, BKU (Ugrahan) General Secretary said, “If the government wants to stop suicide immediately then the first step should be to waive complete debt of all small and marginal farmers and provide them with the genuine rate of their crops as per the Swaminathan Commission recommendations. He further adds that after the loan waiver, the number of suicides has increased manifold. “The farmers have no faith in the state and Centre,” said Kokrikalan.

Sukhpal Singh Manak, who keeps the record fo farmer suicides released the data, saying that in the past 21 months (March 2017-December 2018), 900 farmers and farm labourers had committed suicides, including 430 from January 2018 to December 2018. “I have been keeping the record of farmers’ suicide for the past three years and collecting details from various channels, including media reports, revenue and police records and village-level workers of the organisation. We have been sending this detail every month to the Punjab government,” he added.

BKU (Dakunda) General Secretary Jagmohan Singh said that even after coming to power for two years, not even 50 per cent of 10.25 lakh farmers have been covered under the loan waiver till date. “If huge loans of corporate houses can be waived, why can’t farmers’ loan be,” Singh questioned the state government.

Reportedly, loans taken from cooperative societies and banks are being written-off for both small and marginal farmers. The loan of nationalised and commercial banks will be taken up after completing the process of the cooperative banks.

Punjab Agriculture Director Dr Jasbir Singh Bains says that the government has tried to waive off farm loans despite having limited means, but suicides have continued. “Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had already said that farmers suicides would continue until the Centre rescues them from the debt net because with the state government’s efforts are not enough and could only provide temporary relief. Swaminathan Commission recommendations should be implemented fully and farmers need a big push for diversification too,” said Jasbir Singh.

Retd. Prof Gian Singh expressed doubts regarding the farm loan waiver scheme, said, “In Punjab, farmers have huge loans from the commercial and private banks, besides money lenders. This exercise of the government is not benefiting them much.”

The farmers in Congress-ruled states have continued to commit suicide despite farmer loan waiver scheme in place. In fact, within days after Congress government in MP waived off loan, a farmer had committed suicide because he wasn’t eligible. In less than three weeks, as many as three farmers had committed suicide in Madhya Pradesh. In Congress-JD(S) ruled Karnataka, too, farmers’ suicides continue despite farm loan waiver scheme.

Reportedly, a massive loan-waive scam has also been brewing in the state of Madhya Pradesh after reports emerged that various beneficiaries listed by the government eligible for farmer loan waiver did not even exist in reality. Many discrepancies and irregularities are already being unearthed in the loan waiver schemes. In Rajasthan, too, non-existent farmers’ names were found on the list of beneficiaries.

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