The Punjab cabinet Saturday gave in-principle approval to debt waiver plan for farm labourers and landless farming members, a move which will provide loan relief to 2.85 lakh people comprising 70 per cent Dalits. The decision, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, was taken by the council of ministers led by the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh here.
The scheme will benefit the farm labourers and landless farmers of Primary Cooperative Agriculture Service Societies (PACS) to the tune of Rs 520.55 crore, as per official release. The waiver includes principal amount of Rs 388.55 crore, Rs 78 crore as interest till March 31, 2017, besides Rs 54 crore on account of interest with effect from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2019 as outstanding on March 31, 2019.
In the state budget last month, the finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal had made an announcement for waiving loans of landless farm labourers, while earmarking Rs 3,000 crore of allocation for the farm debt waiver scheme. The state government was already running a debt waiver scheme for small and marginal farmers. Beneficiaries will be individual farm labourers and landless farming members of PACS. Members of only those PACS would be eligible for debt relief who have been availing advancement from District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs).
The amount eligible for debt relief will comprise the outstanding principal amount up to a limit of Rs 25,000 as on March 31, 2017 and simple interest at the rate of seven per cent per annum, as per the release. The debt relief will not be available to those members who are either employees, pensioners of government, semi government, public sector undertaking of any state, central government and or income tax payee.
If an individual has more than one account, the relief would be given for one account only, which has higher outstanding amount subject to the maximum of Rs 25,000 as principal. The accounts of the beneficiaries will be Aadhar-seeded to avoid duplication. The move comes as an extension of the Debt Relief Scheme of October 2017 for small and marginal farmers with loans up to Rs 2 lakh. Under the scheme, till date, the government has waived loans of 5.47 lakhs small and marginal farmers to the extent of approximately Rs 4,600 crore.