Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has constituted an expert group to assess the worth of farm loans to be waived and ways and means to do it. The Punjab government also notified banning the use of red beacons from today, except a few high dignitaries. The government also formalised the terms of reference for the Special Task Force to curb the drug menace in the State.
Congress in its election manifesto for the recently held State Assembly elections, had promised to waive all farm loans if voted to power. Uttar Pradesh’s BJP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has already taken the lead by waiving off Rs 34,000 crores of farm loans.
The panel to work modalities on farm loan waiver, announced by the Punjab government today, will be chaired by former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices T Haque.
Pramod Kumar Joshi, Director – South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, South Asia Regional Office, and BS Dhillon, Vice-Chancellor, PAU, Ludhiana, are the other two members.
The panel has the mandate to submit its report in a month.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 22, Amarinder had sought special package for one-time loan waiver of farmers. He said the total farm debt in Punjab amounted to more than Rs 80,000 crore, including the crop loans in the cooperative sector amounting to about Rs 12,500 crore. The average debt per farm household in Punjab works out to be Rs 8 lakh (including crop loan), while the State’s per hectare debt of small and marginal farmers was the highest in India.
The notification barring the use of red beacons has specified who could use red beacons from now on. Nevertheless, no vehicle would use red or even blue beacon if they are not carrying or accompanying VIPs specified in the list. The list includes Punjab governor, the Chief Justice and judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, apart from visiting dignitaries. Ambulance, disaster relief vehicles and fire service have been allowed to use beacons. Punjab was known for its blatant misuse of red beacons under the previous government led by the Badals.