Amarinder orders release of farmers; committee to hold talks on demands
Chandigarh, Sep 22 (IANS) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday ordered the release of over 350 farmers taken into preventive detention ahead of their protest in Patiala demanding waiver of crop loans among other things.
The Chief Minister directed the Director General of Police (DGP) and the district authorities to facilitate the release of the farmers.
The farmers’ unions started their six-day protest on Friday.
A state government spokesperson said that the farmers “were clearly resorting to agitation out of sheer desperation and did not really mean to create any law and order problem”.
“Of the total 377 rounded up, 34 have already been released while 308 are in judicial custody and 35 in police custody. The process to secure the release of those in custody was being initiated,” the spokesperson said.
The Chief Minister has also constituted a three-member committee, headed by chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board, Lal Singh, to hear the grievances of farmers and also apprise them of the steps taken by his government regarding the promised crop loan waiver.
“While appealing to the farmers to be patient, the Chief Minister said that he had inherited a government with empty coffers but despite that, steps to waive off the crop loans of the farmers had been initiated and a notification, the draft of which was cleared by the cabinet two days ago, will be issued soon,” the spokesperson said.
The Punjab cabinet had, on Wednesday, approved the draft notification for crop loan waiver scheme for farmers which had been announced in June by the Chief Minister.
“Besides taking over the entire eligible loan amount of the farmers covered by the debt waiver scheme, the government has decided to also take over the outstanding interest of farmers from 1st April, 2017 till the date of notification, which will lead to an additional Rs 400 crore benefit to the farmers,” the spokesperson said.
He added that the crop loan waiver scheme will directly benefit nearly 10.25 lakh farmers across the state.
The Chief Minister had in June announced the waiver of entire crop loans (up to Rs 2 lakh) of all small and marginal farmers (up to 5 acres) and a relief of Rs 2 lakh to the remaining marginal farmers irrespective of the amount of loan.