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PAU Survey
89 pc of farmers under debt
Devinder Pal and Satrajit Chakrabarti
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 6
There is a credible evidence that the Punjab farmer is going from bad to worse. A survey, displaying the plight of farmers, says 89 per cent of the farmer households in the state are under debt and 12.8 per cent are those who have very little option other than suicide.

According to a survey by Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, the total indebtness of the farm sector is estimated at Rs 21,064 crore. On the recommendation of the Punjab State Farmers Commission, Punjab government, three economic experts from the PAU, Dr Sukhpal Singh, Manjeet Kaur and H.S. Kingra, carried out a survey covering 20 blocks of 11 districts in Punjab.

The random sample survey consisted a total of 600 farm households, comprising 107 marginal farm households (up to 1 ha), 150 small farms (1.01 to 2 ha), 153 semi-medium farms (2.01 to 4 ha), 87 medium farms (4.01 to 6 ha) and 103 large farms (above 6 ha) for the reference year 2005-06.

The institutional sources contributed 62 per cent of the total debt of Rs 21,000 crore. The rest of the debt comes from the non-institutional sources.

The stress level of indebtedness approaching to bankruptcy, i.e. when the loan is more than two years of a family income, includes 12.8 per cent of the farm households. These farmers have indebtedness of more than 200 per cent of income.

The total debt per sample farm household from both institutional and non-institutional sources is Rs 1,78,934. The debt per indebted farm in the state is over Rs 2 lakh. The survey says that the indebtedness per indebted household is the highest in the south-western region (Rs 2,85172), followed by central region (Rs 55,195). In the cotton belt all farm household groups are highly indebted.

The average debt for marginal and small farmers ( Rs 1,80,000) in this region is more than the average debt of all the farm categories in the semi-hilly region and of the marginal and small farmers in the central region.

Making the things worse, farmers having tractors are more heavily indebted. Those who are with tractors have a average debt of Rs 2,64,320 as compared to just Rs 99,589 for those without tractors. The case of marginal and small farmers with tractors are even worse.

Per hectare agricultural indebtedness gauged as amount outstanding increased from Rs 6,206 crore in 2000-01 (March 31 ending), to Rs 12411 crore in 2005-06.

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