Punjab AAP leader flays Centre, NITI Aayog on farmer issues

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Chandigarh, Feb 23 (IANS) Flaying the NITI Aayog and the central government, the AAP’s Punjab unit on Friday said the Aayog’s actions vis-a-vis farmers will escalate suicides by peasants in agrarian states like Punjab.

“The flat refusal of the Niti Aayog to bail out farmers of Punjab has sent extremely wrong signals to the debt-ridden farmers, which will further escalate suicides in Punjab,” Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira said in a statement here.

Khaira said Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar’s statement on food security has revealed the Modi government’s “hidden agenda’ wherein it wants to dismantle the current MSP (minimum support price) system for wheat and paddy.

Kumar is said to have told Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Finance Minister Manpreet Badal and others here on Thursday that Punjab should stop harping on its contribution to the food security of the country and instead focus on securing farmers income and press for crop diversification.

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Khaira said it was a matter of shame that NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog members, instead of giving remunerative prices for crops to suffering farmers, had suggested cutting input costs.

“This statement is like rubbing salt on the wounds of farmers. The insensitive attitude of the Modi government to deny farmers a package is not only breach of faith but tantamount to leaving them in the lurch in the hour of crisis,” Khaira said, while demanding that the outstanding debt of nearly Rs 1 lakh crore of farmers should be waived by the Centre.

“It is due to the tireless efforts of Punjab farmers that India is self-sufficient in food grains today. Although more states have begun to contribute grains to the central pool now, it was Punjab that actually filled the food bowl of the country. It is a matter of record that Punjab contributed 60 per cent and 80 per cent of rice and wheat respectively towards the Indian grannery till a few years ago.”

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Khaira, who is also Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, said that despite “such massive contribution”, the farmers have always been discriminated against in fixing of minimum prices for their crops by successive central governments.

He said it was due to such discrimination that Punjab farmers had ended up with a colossal debt of Rs 1 lakh crore.

The AAP leader said that the Narendra Modi government has written off the bad debts of big corporates and business houses totalling lakhs of crores of rupees.

He said as per the Reserve Bank of India report, 25 per cent of the country’s total non-performing assets of Rs 8 lakh crore of public sector banks, stands in the name of only the 12 top corporate families of India.

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“It is a pity that the Niti Aayog and the Modi government are turning a blind eye to thousands of farmer families in Punjab who owe Rs 1 lakh crore to banks,” the AAP leader said.

Punjab, with just 1.54 per cent geographical area of the country, contributes nearly 50 per cent food grains to the central kitty.

–IANS

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