Punjab’s rail traffic disruption entered its fifth day today, December 24, as protesting farmers continued to block rail tracks despite Chief Minister Chiranjit Singh Channi’s announcement of a loan waiver for farmers in debt.
â(Chief Minister) announces resolution of debt cancellation cases for loans of up to Rs2 lakh of the remaining 1.09 lakh from small and marginal farmers valued at Rs 1200 crore. Also announces to include these farmers with loans of up to Rs 2 lakh from PSCADB (Punjab State Coop Agriculture Development Bank Limited) as part of the ongoing agricultural debt cancellation program â, said today the Official Twitter account of the Chief Minister of Punjab.
Thousands of farmers under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) started the âRail Rokoâ unrest on December 20 in Amritsar which quickly spread to other parts of Punjab. It is learned that protesters have blocked railway lines in Devidaspura, Tarn-Taran, Hoshiarpur, Ferozepur, Moga, Fazilka and Jalandhar, which has disrupted the movement of nearly 128 trains.
The protesting farmers are demanding the waiver of farm loans, the payment of compensation to the families of the farmers who died in the Delhi border protests and government jobs for the family members of the deceased.
Also read: Death by debt: 86% of agricultural households in Punjab in debt; more than 16,606 farmers died by suicide between 2000 and 2015
“Ye CM ka announcement low policy khel haiâ¦ election aane wale hain to uske liye bas ek jumla hai taaki log inhe vote den aur ye power me aa saken,” Ranjit Singh, a marginal farmer in Amritsar who has been protesting the railroad tracks for five days, said Gaon connection. (The Chief Minister’s announcement is just a political gimmick. An election is about to take place, it’s just poll rhetoric. All they want is to come back. in power)
Another protester, Gurlal Singh Mann, from the village of Ludhiana in Mann, claimed he would not return to his village and continue to block the train tracks unless the demands were not only accepted but also fully implemented. .
âBetween September 28 and 30, we blocked all the deputy commissioner’s offices in the Punjab. At that time, we met with CM Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa MP from Punjab, as well as Agriculture Minister Randeep Singh Nabha and a few other local MPs who assured that our demands would be met within 10 days. It has been 2.5 months since, but none of our requests have been met. How much time should we give these ministers to respond to our requests, âMann asked.
An official statement quoted that the government of Punjab had already waived loans from 563,000 farmers to the tune of 46,100 million rupees. 134,000 small farmers received relief of Rs 9,800 million while 429,000 lakhs from marginal farmers benefited from a loan waiver of Rs 36,300 million.
“It is high time the government was held accountable”
Ranjit Singh, the protesting farmer, further said the government should refrain from making empty promises.
âThey don’t even have enough funds to implement the debt waivers. They should have an appropriate policy on how they would forfeit loans. Farmers are too tired to believe such empty statements
It is high time the farmers of Punjab held the state government to account â,
âBetween 2017 and 2020, the state government promised to forgo loans from farmers, but nothing happened on the ground,â Singh added.
Also read: Half of the farming households in rural India are in debt; one in five households has taken out a loan from a private lender
Farm loan waiver – a longstanding demand
Meanwhile, waivers of agricultural loans have been a major cause of contention among farmers in Punjab.
A study, titled Debt among farmers and farm workers in rural Punjab, sponsored by the New Delhi-based Indian Social Science Research Council, found in 2017 that 85.7% of the state’s farm households were in debt.
The average amount of debt per farm household in rural Punjab is Rs 552,000 which has been contracted for the purchase of agricultural inputs and machinery.
But these investments have in no way led to an increase in income, due to the increase in input costs and a virtual freeze in the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat and paddy, the crop of which represents 85 percent of the cultivated agricultural area in Punjab.
According to the 2017 study, the collective debt of farmers in the Punjab, which amounted to Rs 57,000 million in 1997, rose to Rs 98,860 million in 2002, Rs 210,640 million in 2005 and Rs 350,000 million in 2015 Up to 64% of total farm income is used to repay loans, he added.
Also read: Burdened by debt, crop failures and wife’s cancer treatment, farmer Anil Kumar Singh took his own life
In addition, according to the 2015-16 agricultural census, around 14% of farmers in Punjab are marginal farmers (owning less than one hectare of land), while around 19% (owning less than two hectares of land) are small farmers.