Chandigarh, July 3: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has exhorted the aartiyas to check charging of exorbitant interest rates on loans to farmers, while urging them to bail out the distressed farmers facing severe financial crisis as a result of huge debt burdens.He also directed the state’s aartiyas to ensure adequate transport arrangements for smooth lifting of paddy during the current Kharif season in view of the abolition of the truck unions.Addressing a meeting of Aartiyas, under the umbrella of the Federation of Aartiyas Association of Punjab, the Chief Minister made it clear that the interests of the farmers would be protected at all costs. “It is our bounden duty to safeguard the interests of the farming community, and the state government has already taken a lead by announcing a debt waiver of Rs.1500 crore in the first phase,” said Captain Amarinder Singh.Captain Amarinder asked the delegation members to identify those unscrupulous elements in the aartiya community who were fleecing the farmers by charging higher rate of interest than their mutually agreed 1.5% per month (18% per annum). Such elements must be thrown out of the community as a deterrent against such activity in the future, he said.Mandi Board chairman Lal Singh urged the aartiyas to issue passbooks to the farmers who were taking loans to help them remain updated about their outstanding dues and prevent their exploitation. On the issue of rationalization of interest rates charged by the aartiyas, the Chief Minister asked them to represent their case before the three member Cabinet sub-committee, comprising Ministers Navjot Singh Sidhu, Manpreet Singh Badal and Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa. The committee has been tasked with examining the provisions of Punjab Agriculture Indebtedness Act, 2016 for making it more effective and ensuring level playing field to all the stake holders, including farmers, aartiyas and commercial banks. The issue of direct payment to farmers through cheques also came up at the meeting and Captain Amarinder said the farmers were free to decide whether they wanted to take payment directly or through aartiyas, with whom they shared age-old ties.Allaying fears of possible disruption of the procurement process by some of the former truck unions, he said all steps would be taken to make fool-proof arrangements at the mandis and asked the aartiyas to make alternate arrangements for hassle-free lifting of paddy. The delegation members appreciated the various initiatives undertaken by the Chief Minister for the betterment of farmers and aartiyas. They said that the hassle-free wheat procurement during the Captain Amarinder-led regime had resulted in revival of confidence and trust amongst the peasantry and the aartiyas, who had been completely crushed by the misrule of the previous SAD-BJP alliance government. During the recent procurement operation across the state, 20 crore bags of wheat were procured and payment of worth Rs. 40,000 crores was made to the farmers within a minimal period of 20 days, which speak volumes for the government’s determination to ensure smooth procurement, the delegation members said. The delegation extended an invitation to Captain Amarinder to a major function at Kisan Bhawan, where they wished to felicitate the Chief Minister tomorrow to express their gratitude over the smooth and flawless procurement operations of wheat.Others present at the meeting included Media Advisor to Chief Minister Raveen Thukral, Chief Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Suresh Kumar, Principal Secretary Finance Anirudh Tiwari, Special Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, Special Secretary Agriculture Vikas Garg and Secretary Mandi Board Amit Dhaka.The Federation of Aartiyas Association of Punjab was represented by its president emeritus Bal Krishan Singla, President Vijay Kalra and General Secretary Swarn Singh.
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