Farmers’ unions want higher compensation for suicides

Chandigarh, Oct 4 (IANS) With suicides by farmers in Punjab rising, associations of farmers have urged the government to hike the compensation for farmers committing suicides.

The associations have told the Punjab government that farmers also need to be paid more compensation for losses suffered in crop cultivation.

Punjab’s southwest area, the Malwa belt, is experiencing the worst loss in cotton crop in recent years, with nearly 60 percent of the crops being destroyed by a white-fly pest.

Farmers have been agitating in Bathinda town in southwest Punjab, 240 km from here, for the past over 10 days.

A government spokesman on Sunday said 18 farmer and farm labour unions from across the state met senior officers, including Chief Secretary Sarvesh Kaushal, on Saturday to evolve ways and means to bail out the beleaguered peasantry from the agrarian crisis.

The demands put forward by the farmers’ associations include increase in compensation given to the next of kin of farmer who committs suicide from Rs.3 lakh to Rs.5 lakh, early release of outstanding payment of cane arrears and raising the rate of compensation in case of damage suffered by cotton growers and farmers who had sown crops like guar and vegetables.

“The delegations pleaded that the procurement agencies must ensure that the entire crop of ‘Paddy-1509’ should be procured at the Minimum Support Price commensurate with the market price in order to avoid distress sale of paddy,” the spokesman said.

Chief Secretary Kaushal told the union leaders that the government was sensitive to their genuine problems.

He said process of special ‘Girdwari’ (revenue assessment of crop loss) to assess the loss of cotton crop in Malwa belt has been completed and compensation to the tune of Rs.644 crore had been released.

“The government had already made the payment of Rs.540 crore for clearing the arrears of sugarcane farmers due towards cooperative mills,” Kaushal said.

Punjab – a Green Revolution state – contributes over 60 percent of the total food grains (wheat and paddy) to the national kitty despite having just 1.54 percent of the country’s geographical area.

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