Experts from World Bank, UN decry farm debt waiver, call for ‘tough measures’ › ›
Free electricity supply to farm pumps is causing harm to Punjab’s economy and ecology. Someone has to take tough measures, though at times such decisions lead to political difficulties. MADHUR GAUTAM, lead economist, Worl Bank Initiatives towards crop diversification hit roadblocks as national priority is to grow more foodgrains... If Centre does not come forward, state has to show way; farmers are willing to change. SURESH KUMAR, former principal chief secretary in Punjab govt
CHANDIGARH: At a gathering of experts from World Bank and United Nations, strong voices emerged against debt waiver as panacea for farm distress, in Zirakpur near here on Tuesday.
At least two prime experts — Madhur Gautam, WB lead economist, and Shyam Khadka, representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN in India — made remarks to that effect at the start of a twoday workshop on the topic ‘Sustainable pathways to revitalize Punjab agriculture: challenges and opportunities’, organised at a hotel in the Chandigarh suburb by the FAO, the Punjab State Farmers Commission and the Centre for International Projects Trust.
Both the experts said that a “populist” measure such a “blanket debt forgiveness” would prove no good; and that the government should instead find the root cause that contributes to a debt pile-up.
Punjab’s Congress government, led by chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, is currently in the process of crop loan waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh each to farmers owing up to 5 acres.
So far, 64,000 farmers have received Rs 170 crore in teh first phase, and the next of four phases will start after reworking of the policy, officials have said.
Experts at the workshop were unanimous that debt due to reasons such as climatic disturbance or family tragedy could be serviced, but not that which has piled up due to mismanagement.
Gautam spoke against the free electricity supply to farm pumps: “It is causing harm to the state’s economy and ecology.” He said someone has to take tough measures, though at times such decisions lead governments to a political difficulties. Khadka added, “Support farmers when they take some new initiatives!” The experts were also in tune with each other that area under paddy, which needs a lot of water, should be reduced. Khadka termed the year 2018 as a “make or break” for the state. “The government is in its first year and can take some tough measures,” he suggested, adding that it could put a cap on free power to tubewells.
‘CENTRAL GOVT MUST AID DIVERSIFICATION’ Suresh Kumar, former principal chief secretary in the Punjab government, said the Centre needs to declare crop diversification a national priority. “Initiatives for diversification hit roadblocks because the national priority is to grow more foodgrains,” he said, adding that if Centre does not come forward, “state government has to show the way; farmers are willing to change”.
‘NON-FARMERS ARE FARM LEADERS’
Sucha Singh Gill, former director general of the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), Chandigarh, said it is ironical that Punjab’s farmers are led by those who are not farmers. “They create barriers and keep issues alive for their own goals,” he said, ruing that, “in policymaking, input from cultivators is never taken into account”. He said the state needs to have a policy on agriculture and water to save both. “State’s orientation should change from law and order to development, health, education.”