Congress President Rahul Gandhi will sound the poll bugle in Punjab on Thursday with the launch of the ‘new version’ of Punjab’s farm debt waiver scheme intended largely to benefit the Dalits. Punjab has the highest per capita ratio of Dalits in the country.
Congress government in Punjab under Capt Amarinder Singh as chief minister has pushed the envelope by extending its 2017 farm debt waiver scheme to include landless farmers and farm labourers.
Until now, the farm debt waiver was only applicable to small and marginal farmers. Majority of the beneficiaries under the new version of the scheme will be Dalits. Gandhi will address a public rally tomorrow in Punjab’s Moga. The inclusion of landless cultivators and farm labourers under the debt waiver scheme comes as a shot in the arm for the Congress ahead of the general elections, party leaders feel.
Punjab witnesses high incidents of suicide from farm labourers, many of whom were reeling under farm debt. Without the inclusion of this segment, the benefits intended under the scheme would have remained incomplete, some experts opine.
According to estimates, nearly 2.85 lakh such persons will benefit from the new inclusions under the scheme. The government will dole out another Rs 520 crores to offer relief to farm labourers and landless cultivators reeling under debt. The debt waiver will essentially include loans taken from the primary cooperative agriculture service societies.
Cash strapped Punjab government has kept a whopping Rs 3000 crore for purposes of relief to farmers under debt in the current fiscal. So far, the government has waived loans of 5.47 lakhs small and marginal farmers by doling out nearly Rs 4,600 crore. For farm labourers and landless farmers, the amount defined for debt relief will include an outstanding principal amount up to a limit of Rs 25,000 as on March 31, 2017.