New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday termed Punjab's farm loan waiver as a "historic step" and accused the Modi government of running away from its responsibility towards the debt-ridden farmers, demanding that it replicate the step taken by its state government.
Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar said despite the financial stress faced by it, the state had shown the way and "we expect the prime minister to follow suit and not to look at farmers as merely a vote bank".
Accusing the Narendra Modi government of running away from the issue by terming it as a state subject, he asked, "Why can't this debt waiver be replicated across the country, that is a humble question I would like to ask the NDA government." He said the farmers may be sitting in Punjab, Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu, but the problems being faced by them were the same and the issue of farm debt was nationwide.
"The government is running away from farmers' problems by saying that it is a state subject. Farmers are facing a bad time as they are reeling under debt and are committing suicide. Instead of getting relief, they are now getting bullets under the NDA government," Jakhar alleged. He was referring to the violence in Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur in which six farmers were killed. He also asked if the government was so moved by the violence in Kashmir, why do the problems of farmers not move it.
"I urge the prime minister to announce a similar farm loan waiver across the country as done by the Congress government in Punjab," he said. He claimed the central government was not doing so now as elections were not due till 2019 and if the NDA announced a farm loan waiver it would not derive any benefit. He said Punjab was already facing financial constraints but despite that it had come forward to help the debt-ridden farmers.
Jakhar said Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had taken up farmers' problems with the prime minister in a meeting with him along with Amarinder, but no steps were taken to address the issue.
The Punjab Congress chief asked why the central government was not able to utilise the "windfall gains" accrued by it due to a fall in international crude oil prices and announce a farm loan waiver as done by the UPA earlier.
Jakhar said there are about 18.50 lakh farming families in Punjab, of which two-thirds were small and marginal farmers. From this block of small and marginal farmers, about 70 per cent have taken loans from institutions or banks and this roughly translated into something like 13 lakh marginal and small farmers who were under debt and would benefit from the scheme.
He said the state government was going to ensure that farmers prosper in Punjab by encouraging a support system which also took care of ecological balance so that small and marginal farmers have sustainable income. He said higher production of foodgrains should translate into prosperity for farmers and higher income for them.
"This is why this focus of debt waiver has been towards those small and marginal farmers," he said.
Updated Date: Jun 20, 2017 22:30:05 IST