Around 930 defaulter farmers belonging to the border district of Ferozepur in Punjab have been issued warrants by the Land Mortgage Bank following the non-payment of loans by them. The farmer unions have threatened to launch a stir in order to prevent the arrest of any debt-ridden farmer.
Satnam Singh Pannu, State President, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) said on Thursday that “the government should waive the debt of the poor farmers on similar lines (that) the heavy loans availed by the big corporate houses were waived”.
Khalara Singh, another KMSC leader, said that the farmers were already facing huge losses due to reduced grains yield.
“Now the state government is harassing them which we will not tolerate,” he said, adding that if any farmer is arrested, the state government will have to face the protest of the peasants.
Sources said the 930 farmers belonging to this border district who have received the warrants have Rs 34.36 crores loan pending against their names for a long time.
When contacted, Swaranjit Singh, Assistant Registrar Cooperative Societies, said that though warrants have been issued, no arrest of any farmer has been made till now.
“The warrants have been issued to only those farmers who have not repaid their loan for a long time to the Land Mortgage bank which they had taken for other purposes like construction of a house or any other work except agriculture,” he said.
Meanwhile, opposition party Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Thursday asked chief minister Bhagwant Singh Mann to direct cooperative banks “to stop issuing arrest warrants against farmers who had failed to repay their loans because of deteriorating financial conditions due to crop failures coupled with a sharp increase in agricultural inputs”.
In a statement, senior SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema expressed shock that the warrants had been issued to farmers in Ferozepur, besides in Bathinda, Mansa and Fazilka districts, for failing to repay loans taken from the bank.
He said most of the defaulters were from the state’s cotton belt.
Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, a senior BJP leader, said that the state government should waive the entire debt of the farmers.
“At least such warrants should not be sent to the farmers. I will write to Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann regarding this matter,” said Sodhi.
It is pertinent to mention here that there are three cooperative banks in this border district at Ferozepur, Guruharsahai and Zira.
SAD’s Cheema said the AAP government should also extend all possible help to farmers, including ensuring they were paid a bonus of Rs 500 per quintal to compensate for the “failure” of their wheat crop.
“The government should also reduce State VAT on diesel, which has witnessed a sharp hike during the last one month, besides coming up with other schemes to reduce farm indebtedness,” he said.
Cheema made it clear that the SAD would not sit quietly in the face of the arrest of farmers of the state.
“The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) must honour its word and take the farmers out of the circle of indebtedness instead of using arrest warrants to humiliate and harass them,” he said. PTI