Absence of political input muddles Punjab loan waiver scheme

Chandigarh, January 6: Punjab has mopped up adequate resources for the implementation of first phase of farmers’ loan wave scheme but the  absence of political intervention has messed it up with anger brewing up among sections of those  who are supposed to be its beneficiaries. All the departments dealing with this scheme are with Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh who is learnt to have delegated all powers to bureaucracy. He was away holidaying in Agra for a few days when its implementation was being worked out.

Capt Amnarinder Singh would launch the scheme formally on January 7 from Mansa where farmers from five districts would be covered. The state government has at its disposal about Rs 4,000 crore for the first phase.

The eligible farmers are to get Rs 2 lakh as the debt relief under this scheme and it is the farmers having land upto 2.5 acres who are being covered. All those who availed of loans from the state cooperative institutions would be covered in the first phase as entire data is with the state government.

Problem has cropped up at the grassroots while preparing the lists of beneficiaries as there are allegations of lower level political interference. This happens under every government during implementation of such welfare schemes. The effort of the local leaders from the ruling party is always to favour own supporters. Then there is corruption at the cutting edge level.

Moreover, there are apprehensions about all eligible farmers being covered. It is the political leadership that should have extended this assurance. Loan waiver is a political decision flowing from the Congress manifesto. Capt Amarinder Singh and his party had given written undertaking to the farmers to waive their debt.

Besides Punjab, similar promises have been made by the governments in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh too that are being ruled by the BJP. However, it is Punjab that has taken the lead in implementation but the lack of political input has created the problems.

The bureaucratic approach is always known to be mechanical but in such cases and although intention might be to cover all eligible persons, it is the political touch that makes all the difference. What is needed in the implementation of such schemes is a committed and dedicated team having political input. This government seems to be functioning without major political involvement.

Yet another broader issue about which the state government is silent is the long term solution to deepening crisis in the farm sector that has created this situation under which farmers in this agriculturally the most advanced state have been committing suicide over the years. It calls for long term solution with thrust on marketing.

It is the output crisis in Punjab but the handling is at the input level. It is the approach at viewing the crisis that has to change. The traditional approach is focussed on inputs. Under the changing market mechanism, the thrust has to be on output.

The present loan waiver is a short term solution and this crisis would repeat the very next year. The government can’t provide such relief even periodically, what to talk of regularly.

The state government should come out with farm policy specific to the state within the next six months.  The traditional farm experts and economists lack output approach.

Jagtar Singh

+91-9779711201

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