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Punjab government today announced setting up an expert group to assess the quantum of agricultural debt, and suggests ways and means for its waiver. T Haque, former head of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, has been appointed Chairman of the Group, which has been tasked with submitting its report within 60 days, an official notification said. The two other members of the Group are Pramod Kumar Joshi, Director - South-Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, South-Asia Regional Office and B S Dhillon, Vice Chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, the notification issued by Additional Chief Secretary (Development) said. Congress in its poll manifesto had promised to waive farm debt after coming to power. The Group would be assisted by the officers of the State Government, including Additional Chief Secretary-cum-Financial Commissioner (Development) and Principal Secretary Finance, it said. Balwinder Singh Sidhu, Commissioner and Director Agriculture, Punjab, shall assist the Group as Convener. He shall convene the meetings of the Group, which may associate officers from the banking sector, including Chief General Manager, NABARD, Chandigarh and Convener State Level Bankers' Committee, Punjab, Chandigarh, it added. Besides assessing the total amount of credit including institutional and non-institutional credit availed by different categories of farmers, the Group will assess the quantum of bad loans or debt and suggest the methodology for remission of debt, the notification said. It will also suggest ways and means to raise resources for the debt waiver, according to the notification. The group may co-opt any other member, if so required, to achieve its objectives, in order to facilitate the state government's efforts to ameliorate the sufferings of the farmers. The Punjab Mandi Board shall provide both secretariat assistance and financial support including payment of allowance to the non-official members for effective and proper functioning of the Group, as per the notification.
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