Punjab loan waiver: Farmers to file self-declaration on holdings

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Punjab government today decided to introduce a system of self-declaration on land holdings by those who avail the benefit of its farm loan waiver scheme after ruling Congress MLAs pointed out that big farmers were transferring portions of lands to their sons to claim benefits.

The state government also decided that government employees and retired pensioners who pay income tax would be excluded from the farm debt waiver scheme launched by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on January 7.

“The Punjab government has decided to introduce a system of self-declaration on land holdings by the beneficiaries of the farm debt waiver scheme to ensure that only deserving and eligible farmers get the benefit of the scheme,” said an official release here.

Such self-declaration should relate to the farmers’ land holdings in villages in Punjab as well as in other states, said the chief minister in a release, pointing out that data from the secretaries of the cooperative societies could not alone be relied upon as they were all appointed by the Akalis during their regime.

Self-declarations, followed by random checks, would ensure a fool-proof mechanism to plug any loopholes in the farm debt waiver scheme, said Amarinder Singh, adding that it would also help prevent the Akali “wrongdoings” from adversely impacting the farm debt waiver scheme.

These measures would help address the various concerns of the MLAs, he said, responding to the issues raised by the elected representatives.

The MLAs, who were present in the meeting, pointed out that many big farmers who had transferred a small part of their land holding to their sons resulting in the waiver of their loans despite huge land holdings said the release.

Some big farmers with land in Rajasthan but holdings less than 2.5 acres in Bathinda had been included in the debt waiver, leading to resentment, they said, suggesting that the government take affidavits about the land holdings before finalising beneficiary lists.

In fact, they said, some NRIs had also ended up getting the benefit of loan waiver, which should have been limited to the deserving small and marginal farmers. There was a suggestion for the issuance of waiver certificates district wise, with proper checking of revenue records to ensure that the real beneficiaries get the waiver.

“It (government) has also decided to exclude government employees and retired pensioners who pay income tax from the scheme to ensure that the poorest of the poor get its benefit,” the release said.

A notification to this effect will be issued soon, it was decided at a meeting chaired by the chief minister.

Chief Principal Secretary to the chief minister, M Suresh Kumar, explained to the MLAs how the phased implementation of the scheme would work.

Waiver of loans for farmers who committed suicide would be taken up after the committee set up by the Vidhan Sabha in this regard submits its report, he added.

The chief minister assured the MLAs that all steps would be taken by the government to prevent misuse of the waiver benefit and ensure that no undeserving farmer is able to take advantage.

The government rolled out the farm debt waiver scheme on January 7 from Mansa.

In the initial phase, the state government has decided to waive loans taken by farmers from cooperative institutions.

It has already identified 5.63 lakh farmers, who took a loan of nearly Rs 2,700 crore from cooperative institutions as on March 31, 2017, as beneficiaries.

The Punjab government had announced farm debt waiver in which loan waiver for up to Rs 2 lakh for small and marginal farmers (up to 5 acres) and a flat Rs 2 lakh relief for all other marginal farmers would be given, thus benefiting over 10 lakh farmers.moneycontrol