The Punjab Satluj-Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Property Rights) Bill, 2016, which the government passed in Assembly in March early this year, has revived the hopes of farming community in Punjab.
The legislation seeks to transfer 3,928 acres of land to the original landowners free of cost. The legislation is the second most significant move by the Punjab Assembly on the issue, after “Punjab Termination of Agreement Act 2004”, which nullified the agreement for sharing of water between Punjab and other states primarily Haryana.
Though following a plea by the neighbouring Haryana government, the Supreme Court has ordered a status quo on its implementation, the new legislation passed on March 14 has won affection of farmer community for ruling SAD-BJP government. Farmers have been in deep distress and the pro- farmers initiatives of Badal government have now raised hopes amongst them.
IMAGE SOURCE: WIKIPEDIA
The relevance of development can be gauged by the figures of debt on farmers which portray a dismal picture. A recent survey, ‘Indebtedness among Farmers and Agricultural Labourers in Rural Punjab‘, done for the Indian Council for Social Science Research shown the debt on the state’s farmers to the tune of Rs 69,355 crore. Of this, Rs 56,481 crore was borrowed from institutions.
Conducted under Gian Singh of Punjabi University in Patiala, the study blamed the financial distress of farmers on ever-decreasing minimum support prices (MSP) for crops, coupled with escalating costs of inputs such as fertiliser, diesel, seeds, pesticides and insecticides.
Other figures related to farmers’ debt in Punjab too are startling. The average debt per farming household in Punjab is Rs 5,52,064. While marginal farmers with up to 2.5 acre land have a debt of Rs 2,76,83, small farmers with up to 5 acre of land owe average debt of Rs 5,57,338. For semi-medium farmers who have land up to 10 acres, the debt is Rs 6,84,649, while for medium farmers (up to 15 acres) the amount is to the tune of Rs 9,35,608. Similarly for large farmers the average amount of debt is Rs 16,37,473.
Therefore it’s in the light of these mind boggling figures of debt of farmers that the new bill is likely to bring a major relief to many farmers in Punjab while underlining the pro farmer approach of SAD-BJP government.
The move directly affects the interest of Haryana which expectedly has moved the Supreme Court challenging it on the ground that it was against the spirit of riparian law and not constitutional. However Punjab government has reiterated that it does not have a single drop of water to spare and farmers’ interest in state were of supreme importance to the government.
Though the Supreme Court has ordered a status quo the Punjab government is hell bent on providing relief to the farmers by giving back this land which was acquired for constructing 212 km long canal in Punjab and Haryana more than three decades ago.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal while making an appeal to the farmers to be prepared to fight for their cause has reiterated that the government has done the right thing by introducing the bill, which was a step in the right direction to save farmers in Punjab.