Chandigarh: The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today said the Vidhan Sabha Committee report on farmer suicides was a cruel joke on farmers and khet mazdoor as it did not come out with a rehabilitation package for families of suicide victims nor recognize the fact that implementing a comprehensive loan waiver had become a necessity.
In a statement here, former minister and SAD spokesman Maheshinder Singh Gewal said it was shocking that the Vidhan Sabha committee headed by Congressman Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria did not bring out the true picture of its interactions with suicide victim families. “It is also shameful that the Congress government decided to table the all important report in the Vidhan Sabha at the virtual end of the session and refused to allow a debate on the issue. Even SAD member Harinderpal Chandumajra, who wrote a dissenting note on the report, was not allowed to speak on the issue in the assembly”.
Grewal said the fact of the matter was that families of suicide victims held the Congress government responsible for their plight. “Nearly all 400 suicides committed in Punjab during the last one year are a direct result of non-implementation of the complete farm loan waiver promise made by the Congress party in the run up to the last assembly elections. Then Pradesh Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh handed over signed affidavits to farmers assuring complete waiver of their loans and assuming responsibility for the same. This is the reason why farmers who could even afford to pay their installments defaulted on them and are now in no position to pay up the accumulated debt”.
The SAD leader said this single assurance had also destroyed the cooperative sector as well as the rural farm economy. He said farmers who had defaulted on cooperative loans were now being charged double interest rates from four per cent earlier to 8.5 per cent now. He said those who had defaulted on short term loans were being charged a penal interest of three per cent.
Grewal said this was not all. Farmers, who had witnessed their credit worthiness being wiped out, were also being harassed and intimidated by PADB officials who were holding protests in front of their houses to force them to pay up their outstanding loans. “These officials have been hurled on farmers by the Congress government which had assured them a complete Rs 90,000 crore loan waiver comprising all loans taken from nationalized and cooperative banks as well as private money lenders”.
Asking the Congress government to tell why it was running away from its responsibility, the Akali leader said it was shocking that the Committee was talking about diversification but was silent on offering an immediate rehabilitation package for suicide victim families. He said no package was even offered for khet mazdoor families whose kin had committed suicide. “Even the promise of giving one government job to next of kin of suicide victims has not been implemented”.
Terming the report as a sham exercise, Mr Grewal said the government should come out with a time bound implementation plan to give succor to families of suicide victims. He said the government should also implement a comprehensive Rs 90,000 crore loan waive immediately.