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Punjab's main opposition AAP and its ally Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) today met Governor V P Singh Badnore and demanded convening a three-day special session of the assembly to discuss the issue of farmers' suicide. The parties also suggested a one-year moratorium on the recovery of agriculture loans and interest. "A minimum three-day special session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha be summoned to discuss threadbare the entire gamut of farm indebtedness and suicides, the reasons and solutions to this mounting challenge," said AAP MLA Sukhpal Khaira in a memorandum submitted to the Governor. He said the "colossal" agriculture indebtedness has acquired "dangerous" ramifications leading to an "increased" number of suicides by farmers and farm labour in Punjab. "Needless to mention, the farm-related debt, both institutional and non-institutional, has crossed an alarming level of more than Rs 1 lakh crore," he said. Congress party in its manifesto of 2017 elections had promised a complete debt-waiver for all categories of farmers, who owe money to state cooperative banks, nationalized banks and the commission agents, he said. "Unfortunately, the Congress government now has taken a complete U-turn and announced a meager categorised and conditional debt-waiver," he alleged. The AAP MLA from Bholath said the "inadequate" debt- waiver had no effect. "In order to provide breathing space to the debt-ridden panicked farming and farm labour fraternity, a one-year moratorium be announced on recovery of all types of agriculture related loans and interest payments. "The Karnataka government in 2013 had announced a similar moratorium in view of a severe drought that hit the state, leading to a large number of suicides," said Khaira, who is the Leader of Opposition. Khaira said, "We suggest that Punjab be divided into different agricultural zones depending upon the nature of soil and water availability.
Each zone should have a different crop cycle with an assured market/purchase of their produce. "We also believe the rate of interest being charged to the agriculture sector is exuberantly high which is further adding to the debt factor, as the return from agriculture income is very meager. Therefore, we suggest the high rates of interest being charged be slashed at least by the state owned cooperative banks," he said. One Time Settlement (OTS) scheme be offered to the agriculture sector/farmers, so that all those willing to settle these loans can avail this facility, he said.
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