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PUNJAB-Govt to waive loans taken by landless labourers, SCs

January 04, 2019 05:45 AM


Govt to waive loans taken by landless labourers, SCs


Ahead of Lok Sabha elections, the Punjab Congress government has started working out ways to extend the loan waiver scheme to landless farm labourers and poor scheduled caste residents of the state.

The Punjab council of ministers gave in-principle approval for the scheme in a meeting held on Wednesday. Sources said during the cabinet meeting, finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal was asked to arrange around Rs 400 crore to roll out the scheme after its finalization.

Despite shaky finances, the state government plans to start the first phase of the scheme before the model code of conduct for Lok Sabha polls comes into force some time in April. On Thursday, senior government officials convened a meeting to deliberate on criteria for identification of beneficiaries. They decided to base the identification of landless labourers on a 15-point questionnaire, which will be sent to the agriculture department. However, officials agree that the process of identification will not be an easy one. Finalization of the criteria and collection of data will take time. But as of now, sources said, the state government is focusing on waiving loans up to a maximum limit of Rs 25,000 taken by landless labourers from cooperative banks.

The state machinery will also identify those members of the scheduled caste community who have taken loans from cooperative banks. But there is confusion on the loan waiver amount limit. “We have to first collect the number of persons eligible for the scheme. We will be able to decide on the loan waiver amount only after looking at our financial sources,” said a senior officer privy to the development.

In two phases of the farm debt waiver scheme so far, Punjab government has disbursed Rs 3,481 crore to 2.36 lakh marginal farmers owning up to 2.5 acres of land, who took loans from cooperatives as well as commercial banks. In the third phase, which is likely to start this month, the government plans to waive maximum loan of Rs 2 lakh each taken by small farmers with land more than 2.5 acres and less than 5 acres.

The Punjab cabinet, on March 22, 2018, gave approval for waiver of loans of up to Rs 50,000 each, taken from Punjab Scheduled Castes Land Development and Finance Corporation (PSCLDFC) and Punjab Backward Classes Land Development and Finance Corporation (PBCLDFC). Waiver of Rs 52 crore benefited 15,890 people who had taken loans up to March 31, 2017

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