CM Amarinder Singh will launch the scheme Sunday; farmers allege gross favouritism in selecting beneficiaries besides clerical errors in the lists.
Chandigarh: The much talked about farm debt waiver scheme of the Punjab government seems to have run into hurdles even before its rollout on Sunday.
Farmers in the five districts of Malwa region have been protesting against what they call gross favouritism in selecting beneficiaries of the scheme.
Chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh will hand over relief certificates to 25 farmers (five each from Mansa, Bathinda, Faridkot, Muktsar and Moga districts) during at an event in Mansa district Sunday. Nearly 47,000 marginal and small farmers are likely to get these certificates.
Backed by various groups of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), the protests have snowballed into a major political issue with opposition parties joining the chorus against the government.
The protesters include mostly the marginal and small farmers who were promised benefits under the scheme but have not found their names on the lists of beneficiaries made public last week.
While some are protesting against what they call partial benefits, it is also being alleged that ineligible farmers have been added to the lists.
The revenue department, which had to verify the lists prepared by the banks, has also drawn flak for clerical mistakes. Some are shown as beneficiariesof Rs 7 waiver, another of Rs 30 and so on.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has decided to protest outside the venue of the CM’s event. Leader of the opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira said the government had “deceived and cheated” farmers in the name of the debt waiver scheme.
“Yesterday Sikander Singh, a farmer of a two-acre plot in Sangrur, committed suicide as his name did not figure in the list,” Khaira said.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal has demanded that the “faulty” scheme be scrapped.
“Congressmen vitiated the entire exercise by resorting to corruption which had left deserving beneficiaries out of the ambit of the scheme. It’s a scam which needs an independent probe,” he said.
He announced that SAD leaders will gherao Congress legislators and ministers in protest.
The government, however, seems to be in damage control mode. “The lists put up are not final. They have been made public for social audit,” Vishwajit Khanna, additional chief secretary (development) Punjab, told reporters on Saturday.
“Anyone whose name is missing, or is wrongly added can lodge an objection with the district authorities,” Khanna added.
When asked about the protests, Khanna said the government cannot please everyone. “But no one who rightfully falls in the scheme will be left out,” he said.
Farm debt waiver was a pre-poll promise of the Congress and was announced by the CM during his government’s first budget session in June. The scheme broadly entailed that farmers with less than 5 acres of land will get loan waiver up to Rs 2 lakh.
About 8 lakh farmers holding over 10 lakh farm debt bank accounts in cooperative, public sector and commercial banks are expected to benefit from the largesse.
The total expected liability of the government is almost Rs 9,500 crore.