Chandigarh, 16 April 2017. Taking a first step towards fulfilment of promise made in Congress election manifesto, chief minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday announced the setting up of an expert group to explore ways for waiver of “all farm debts”.
The panel, which would assess the quantum of agricultural debt besides suggesting ways and means for its waiver, will be led by former chairman of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) T Haque.
Other members of the panel include Pramod Kumar Joshi, director (South Asia), International Food Policy Research Institute, South Asia Regional Office and B S Dhillon, vice-chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana. The group will submits its report within a month.
An official notification issued by additional chief secretary (development) said the group would be assisted by the state government officers, including additional chief secretary-cum-financial commissioner (development) and principal secretary (finance).
In a letter to the Prime Minister on March 22, Amarinder had sought special package for one-time loan waiver. He said the total farm debt in Punjab amounted to more than Rs 80,000 crore, including crop loans in the cooperative sector amounting to about Rs 12,500 crore.
The average debt per farm household in Punjab works out to be Rs 8 lakh (including crop loan), while the state’s per hectare debt of small and marginal farmers was the highest in India.
Balwinder Singh Sidhu, commissioner and director of agriculture, Punjab, would assist the group as convener. He would convene the meetings of the group, which may associate officers from the banking sector, including chief general manager, NABARD, Chandigarh, and convener, state level bankers’ committee, Chandigarh.
Besides assessing the total amount of credit including institutional and non-institutional credit availed by different categories of farmers, the group will assess the quantum of bad loans or debt and suggest the methodology for remission of debt.
It will also suggest ways and means to raise resources for the debt waiver, according to the notification.
The expert group may co-opt any other member, if so required, to achieve its objectives, in order to facilitate the state government’s efforts to ameliorate the sufferings of the farmers.
The Punjab Mandi Board would provide both secretariat assistance and financial support including payment of allowance to the non-official members for effective and proper functioning of the group, as per the notification.