Hitting out at opposition SAD for criticising the Punjab government's debt-waiver scheme, minister Manpreet Singh Badal today said that had they been protecting farmers, they should have announced it while in power. His statement came after the SAD dubbed the Punjab government's debt-waiver scheme a "massive fraud" and the relief under it "measly". The Akali's had always boasted of protecting the interest of the farming community, but had they really be doing it, the previous SAD-BJP dispensation should have announced the farm debt waiver, the finance minister said. They should have done what Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has done for the farming community. "We have given something rather than taking anything," Badal said. "If the Akali Dal has grievances that it (the amount of waiver) is less, the party is an ally of the ruling BJP at the Centre and Harsimrat Kaur Badal (union minister) sits in the Cabinet. I think farmers do not belong to Punjab only.
They also belong to India," he said. The minister said that despite financial constraints, the government rolled out the scheme for the farmers. "Because of budgetary constraints, we have kept the debt waiver amount to up to Rs 2 lakh. This is probably the highest waiver by any state in India," he claimed. He also urged the Centre to come forward and help debt- ridden farmers. Under the scheme debts up to Rs 2 lakh for small and marginal farmers (up to 5 acres of land) would be waived and a flat Rs 2 lakh relief would be given to marginal farmers. This is expected to benefit over 10 lakh farmers in Punjab. The SAD today had hit out at the Congress-led state government over the issue of the farm debt waiver scheme, accusing it of playing a "massive fraud" with the farming community by waiving "measly" amounts of farm loan. It alleged that it was against the promise of a whole debt waiver which was pegged at about Rs 90,000 crore.
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