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Punjab

Posted at: Jul 13, 2018, 1:19 AM; last updated: Jul 13, 2018, 1:37 AM (IST)

Farm bodies differ on free power to big landlords

Vishav Bharti

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 12

Farm unions are split over giving free power to big farmers. The differences were noticed during a recent meeting of farmers’ organisations called by the Punjab State Farmers’ and Farm Workers’ Commission.

Last month, the commission in its draft “Punjab State Farmers’ Policy” had proposed withdrawal of free electricity to big farmers. To begin with, a flat rate of Rs 100 per horsepower (hp) per month be charged from farmers owning 4 hectares (9.88 acres) or more.

However, most of the farmers’ organisations are not on the same page on the issue. Even some of the unions inclined to the Left ideology are divided. Like the Punjab Kisan Union, one of the mass organisations of the CPI (ML) Liberation which doesn’t support commission’s demand for withdrawing subsidy to farmers.

“For long, we have been saying that subsidies should only be for poor farmers, and not the rich ones. But our reservation is the motive behind the proposal. They will start with rich farmers and end up withdrawing subsidies from the poor too,” said Ruldu Singh Mansa, president, Punjab Kisan Union.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), however, differs. It says income tax should be imposed on farmers owning more than 18 acres (Land Ceiling Act provisions). And subsidies should be withdrawing from them.

“The 2001 Census had brought out that if provisions of the Land Ceiling Act of 18 acres were implemented in Punjab, it will come out that 16.66 lakh acres were in illegal possession of big landlords. So power subsidy should be withdrawn from such landlords and income tax imposed on them,” said Sukhdev Singh Kokri, general secretary, BKU (Ugrahan).

So far, the only organisations that have agreed to the commission’s proposal are the BKU (Dakonda) and the Kirti Kisan Union, both Left-leaning outfits.

“We principally agree that farmers who own more than ten acres should not get free power. Such facilities should be for poor farmers only,” said Jagmohan Singh of the BKU (Dakonda).

“It is a fact that farmers, who own more than 10 acres, pocket a lion’s share of subsidies. The amount saved after withdrawing power subsidy from rich farmers should be used to help farmers with less than 10 acres,” he said.

The Kirti Kisan Union has gone a step forward. It has taken a position why 10 acres, subsidies should only be for farmers who own less than 7.5 acres.

However, the BKU (Rajewal) and the BKU (Lakhowal), whose leaders have remained associated with the Shiromani Akali Dal, have made it clear that they would oppose any move in this regard.

Balbir Singh Rajewal said, “This is the only subsidy which farmers get directly. Everybody questions subsidies given to the agriculture sector, but nobody talks about the industry. In last Budget, the Central government had given Rs 5.4 lakh crore to the industry in the name of incentives.”

Earlier, The Tribune had highlighted that if the state government accepts the commission’s recommendation of withdrawing free electricity to medium and large farmers (above ten acres), it can save Rs 3,300 crore annually.

Divided they stand 

Punjab Kisan Union: Subsidies should be only for poor farmers, and not the rich ones 

Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan): Farmers owning more than 18 acres should be charged income tax, besides withdrawing all subsidies from them

BKU (Dakonda): Farmers with more than ten acres should not get free power. Such facilities should be for poor farmers only

Kirti Kisan Union: Subsidies should only be for farmers who own less than 7.5 acres

BKU (Rajewal) and BKU (Lakhowal): Everybody questions subsidies given to the agriculture sector, but nobody talks about the industry

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