Punjab waives farm loan, AAP says 'too little'

Govt Rules Out Farm Loan Waivers Will Stick to Fiscal Targets

Exempting restaurants, hotels and clubs from Supreme Court's order of restricting sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh-led Punjab cabinet on Monday gave approval to amend a section of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914. Even an increase in the ex-gratia for families of farmers who committed suicide to Rs 5 lakh from Rs 3 lakh has been announced by the Pubjab government.

The Centre is not considering any proposal for farm loan waiver, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said today, a day after Punjab approved waiving of loans for almost 10 lakh farmers in the state.

The decision is based on the interim report of an expert group, headed by eminent economist Dr T Haque, which was tasked with suggesting ways and means to help the state's distressed farming community.

The Punjab government further announced to waive loans, raised from institutional sources, of families of those farmers who had committed suicide in the state.

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As debt relief to farmers for loans raised from non-institutional resources, the government has made a decision to review the Punjab Settlement of Agriculture Indebtedness Act, 2016 to "provide the desired relief to farmers through mutual acceptable debt reconciliation and settlement, which shall be statutorily binding on both the parties-the lender and the borrower". A cabinet sub-committee has already been set up to review the Act, Singh said in the Assembly on Monday. The Punjab chief minister was under pressure to announce a loan waiver after Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Aditya Nath had waived off loans of up to Rs 1 lakh on April 4.

He reiterated the commitment to provide free power to farmers but appealed to big and well-to-do farmers to give up power subsidy voluntarily.

The measures aimed at creation of wealth in agriculture, industry and service sectors which generate more employment would receive greater attention, he said.

Announcing the establishment of a Paddy Straw Challenge Fund to stop the practice of crop residue burning by the farmers, the Chief Minister informed the House that he had already written to the Prime Minister to allow a bonus of Rs.100 per quintal to all those farmers who incorporate the paddy straw in the soil instead of burning it, as the farmers need to be incentivized in this regard.

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