Chandigarh, Jan 20 : Appealing to the state's angry debt-ridden farming community, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday urged them to shun the path of agitation and said his government could not afford to waive off any more of their debts at the present juncture.
Reiterating that his government was committed to alleviating all their woes at the earliest, Amarinder Singh said that despite the severe financial crunch faced by the state government, Punjab had waived off more debts of its farmers than the other states.
He cited the examples of Maharashtra (up to Rs 1.5 lakh), Uttar Pradesh (up to Rs 1 lakh), Rajasthan (up to Rs 50,000), Madhya Pradesh (up to Rs 1 lakh) and Karnataka (up to Rs 50,000) to point to the extent to which his government had stretched itself to fulfill this important promise of the Congress to the farming community.
He urged the protesting farmers to appreciate the government's efforts.
The Chief Minister appealed to the farmers not to be misled by the opposition parties and some Kisan Unions, who he said were spreading false propaganda on the issue of farm debt waiver in order to promote their vested political interests.
"Considering the financial problems which my government had inherited from the Akalis, and also considering the lack of support on the issue from the central government, it is not possible, at present, to extend the debt waiver scheme to more farmers or to waive off more than Rs 2 lakh," Amarinder Singh said in a statement here.
The Chief Minister sought more time from the farmers to implement farm debt waiver in toto, saying his government was working towards reviving the state's economy so that all sections of the society could be brought back on the track of development.
"The thrust, at the moment, is on helping out the worst affected small and marginal farmers," Singh said, adding that all the farmers would eventually be covered by the debt waiver scheme, once the state's economy starts stabilizing.
Observing that the state exchequer had a debt of Rs 46,000 crore when he demitted office after his earlier stint in 2007, the Chief Minister said that his government was hit by a debt trap of over Rs 2 lakh crore when it took over from the SAD-BJP government in 2017.
"This has prevented his government from full implementation of its farm debt waiver promise in one go," he added.
"Nevertheless, of the 10.25 lakh farmers who are eligible to be covered under the debt waiver scheme announced by his government in its maiden budget, 5.63 lakh were slated to benefit in the first phase itself," he pointed out, adding that his government had somehow managed to generate Rs 2,700 crore needed in this phase.
"Unfortunately, however, the government is not in a position to garner more funds in the prevailing circumstances, and hence could not accept the demand of the farmers for total waiver," he added.
The Chief Minister said that only the big ones among the 17.5 lakh farming families in the state had so far been left out of the waiver scheme, and they were the ones who were quite capable of taking care of themselves.