Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday rolled out a Rs 520 crore debt relief scheme for 2.85 lakh farm labourers and landless farmers on the occasion of the 77th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
He said his government had decided to waive loans amounting to Rs 520 crore of farm labour and landless farmers with respect to the principal amount against their cooperative loans as of July 31, 2017, and simple interest at the rate of 7 per cent per annum on the above amount till March 6, 2019.
The state government had earlier waived off Rs 4,700 crore worth of loans (up to Rs 2 lakh of crop loans each) for 5.85 lakh small and marginal farmers under the debt waiver scheme.
Speaking on the occasion, Amarinder Singh said he was dedicating the scheme to the state on the 77th birth anniversary of his close friend Rajiv Gandhi, according to an official release.
"I hope and wish a day will come when India will be free from poverty, which Rajiv Gandhi dreamed about," Mr Singh said.
Asserting his continued support to the farmers agitating against the farm laws, he said that his "heart is with the farmers who are protesting at the Delhi borders".
He said he does not agree with the stand taken by the central government, which was "not listening" to the farmers.
"We have amended the Constitution 127 times, so why are we not doing it now? Why is the Government of India standing on prestige on the issue of the farm laws," he asked.
He added that he had categorically urged the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister to repeal the legislation.
The chief minister said he had been asked to stop the Punjab farmers from going to Delhi. "But I never stopped as everyone has the right to protest in the national capital. The right to protest is a democratic right," he said.
"These small farmers are not fighting for themselves but for their coming generations," he said, asking why the Centre could not see the pain of the protesting farmers.
These farmers are mostly those who own an average of 2.5 acres of land, he pointed out, recalling that during a visit to Poland long back he had seen that country increasing the land ceiling from the existing 40 acres to 100 acres as families could not feed themselves with such small land holdings.
"So you can imagine what will happen to those who have just 2.5 acres," he remarked.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)