Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, July 11
A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday rapped the Punjab Government for virtually encouraging farmer suicides by providing monetary relief to the families, and that compensation may actually act as an incentive.
More than 16,000 farmers and labourers have reportedly ended lives from 2000-15.
The government had, in March, told the High Court that a scheme for giving financial assistance of Rs 3 lakh to the family of farmers committing suicide due to indebtedness was already in place. Besides, the government had framed a scheme to extend a loan waiver to small and marginal farmers.
Taking up a petition filed in public interest, Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli verbally asserted that someone desperate could actually take the extreme step for providing monetary benefits to his family. “People who are starving, they may think on these lines,” it observed.
Describing compensation as an interim measure, the Bench said it was not an answer to the problem and asked the state to specify solution.
The Bench also asked the state to consider and specify the reasons behind suicides.
Expressing dissatisfaction with an affidavit submitted by the state, the Bench rejected it. “It does not satisfy us,” the Bench stated. “What has been placed before us is detail of relief by way of affidavit… This does not address the problem.”
The Bench added that Punjab had referred in the affidavit to its policy framed in 2015, but there was no tangible progress since then. “Show what has happened during this period,” it said.
The Bench observed that the High Court had in February 2014 directed the State to frame an “appropriate scheme”. Soon after passing of the order, the state government had sought additional time to come up with a policy on the Andhra Pradesh module. Referring to it, the Bench asserted: “Where is the Andhra policy? It should have been placed before us. Your officials do not report that.” It also accepted the request by the state counsel to file another affidavit.
Granting the state three weeks for the purpose, the Bench made it clear that the affidavit was required to specify steps taken and proposed to be taken by the state. In case of non-compliance, it would summon the chief or the principal secretary.