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Posted at: Jan 6, 2017, 1:47 AM; last updated: Jan 6, 2017, 1:47 AM (IST)

Quiz nominees on farm suicides, villagers told

Sarbjit Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 5

Setting the election agenda for farmers, convener of the Movement against State Repression Inderjit Singh Jaijee has urged panches and sarpanches to ask hard questions to candidates visiting them to seek votes on the issue of crisis in the farm sector, especially farm suicides.

In a letter addressed to panchayats, Jaijee has said that hundreds of farmers have committed suicide in the state especially in the cotton belt. However, political parties did not address this issue in the right earnest and have been inventing one excuse or the other to skirt the issue.

“You must ask three questions to candidates,” Jaijee wrote to sarpanches. First is: Will you support the adopting of social welfare pension eligibility criteria and increase in the quantum of the old age pension to Rs 200 per month? Second: Will you urge the next government to get the institutional agriculture loan waived and set up rural debt tribunals with judicial powers to deal with non-institutional debt at the sub-division level? The third question is: Will you impress upon the next government to give at least Rs 3 lakh to the family of deceased farmers, beside one job per family. In case, the family does not have eligible member for job then the compensation of Rs5 lakh.

Jaijee said whereas Haryana was paying Rs1,400 per month as old age pension and enhances it by Rs200 every year, the Punjab Government, which was earlier paying just Rs250, sometime ago increased it to Rs500 per month which was just Rs16 per day and not enough to buy even one-time meal.

In Haryana, all persons above the age of 60 are eligible for pension in case income from all sources together with that of his/her spouse does not exceed Rs50,000 per annum and landholding does not matter.

In Punjab the annual income should be less than Rs18,000 per year and landholding should not be more than 2 acres and women above 60 and men above 65 are eligible.

“Punjab does not want to admit that a large number of rural people have been driven to suicide. Haryana does not want to admit it either. However, through its pension scheme, Haryana has taken some steps to soften the severity of hardship for the neediest rural families and this has resulted in the reduction of rate of suicide in that state. Contrary to it, Punjab has turned a blind eye and the incidence of even multiple suicides in this state is on the rise,” Jaijee has said in his letter to panchayats.

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