By Dr. Gyan Pathak
The Government of Punjab has just started compensating farmers of the state for their crop losses due to inclement weather conditions in March and April. AAP government led by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann kept their assurance to do it at lightning speed in transparent manner and met the deadline of Baisakhi, April 14, 2023 to start distribution of compensation, even while the crops are still in the field. It’s a commendable feat that should not only be followed by all the states in the country but also by the Union Government led by PM Narendra Modi alleged of going back on their promises to farmers demanding not only enough minimum support prices (MSPs) for their crops but a legal guarantee too.
On the first day, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann started the process to disburse compensation to the farmers with the state government distributing Rs 40 crore. He distributed Rs12.94 crore as compensation for 362 villages of Fazilka. After the incessant rains that caused server damage to the wheat crop, Mann had extensively toured the affected areas of the state to take stock of the situation in the fields, and he said was shocked to note the colossal loss suffered by the farmers.
Comprehensive Girdawari was then ordered to ascertain the loss, which was a paradigm shift from the earlier approaches of the governments. Allegations were rampant that such compensations were guided chiefly by the loyalties of the farmers to the ruling establishments, while others were running pillar to post to have proper compensations. Delay in the process was a fact that no one can deny. This time the drive of disbursal of compensation has bee started within 20 days of loss of crops.
AAP leadership had demanded compensation to farmers from the Modi government which also imposed certain cut in the compensation amount. During allegations and counter allegations between the Punjab and Centre, the Chief Minister had also said that instead of requesting the Centre for compensating the farmers, the state government will bear the entire expense of the burden being faced by the farmers due to the cut being imposed by the Centre on account of damage to wheat crop.
The reports emanating for Abohar and Fazilka has clear message for the entire nation, both economically and politically. Farmers have expressed their happiness and gratitude toward the state government and AAP leadership for taking their fight against Centre’ oppression and callousness on the crises of farmers, especially for alleged imposition of compensation cut. Everybody, particularly farmers, said that Mann’s stand against the Centre’s decision to impose value cut was in right direction. All CMs should learn from Punjab CM how to implement welfare schemes for “Annadatas” (food providers).
It is in contrast to the assurances given to the agitating farmers by non less than the PM Modi in November 2021, on which Samyukta Kisan Morcha called off their agitation against the three farm laws that were withdrawn by the Centre which assuring farmers that their other demands would be considered. Almost over and half year has been lost, and farmers have again become restive against alleged backtracking of the Centre on given assurances.
It also must be noted that villagers have also been getting prompt assistance for reconstructing their damaged houses due to hailstorms and heavy unseasonal rains. The speed at which farmers and villagers are being compensated is worth commendable.
However, it is not an easy task to compensate the farmers fully, especially on account of lack of enough fund with the state, and limited availability through disaster relief funds, as well as from the Centre. AAP MP Raghav Chadda, in a written a letter to Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman, has said that rains had impacted at least 14 lakh hectares (40 per cent) of 34.9 lakh hectares of wheat sown in Punjab.
State government has finally announced a compensation of up to Rs 15,000 per acre, up from Rs 12,000 earlier announced. Punjab government has estimated 13.46 lakh hectares of the total 34.89 lakh hectare under wheat suffered due to bending and falling of the crop.
The farmers who lost 20-32 per cent, 33-75 per cent, and 76-100 per cent loss were being given compensation earlier, but Mann government has decided to compensate loss even less than 20 per cent which was not available under former governments.
The farmers in the highest loss slab would be give Rs 15,000 per acre compensation. State share would be Rs 9,600 while Rs 5,400 would be Centre’s share. For damage between 33-75 per cent, the compensation would be Rs 6,750. Rs 4,000 would come from state disaster response fund (SDRF). Loss below 33 per cent would be compensated at Rs 2,000 per acre.
Punjab would thus be paying Rs 861 crore compensation to farmers, in addition to Rs 641 crore coming from the Centre or SDRF funded by the Centre.
The issue of compensation to farmers is multidimentional, which not only includes disasters, but also fall in prices as we have seen earlier in case of onion and potatoes, and a proper MSP that could compensate the input costs of farmers as well as provide remunerative prices. State Governments and the Centre must come out with a comprehensive compensation policy for farmers. (IPA Service)