LAHORE: Majority of Punjab’s farmers have been knocked out by the procedures to avail facilities offered by Kisaan package scheme, a highly placed agriculture department official revealed to Pakistan Today.
Talking to Pakistan Today, the official stated that Punjab government’s 2016-17 Kissan Package could hardly identify eligible farmers throughout Punjab who was either landless or smallholders with land holding of up to five acres.
Despite the failure in finding suitable aspirants, the provincial government has already reserved Rs15 billion under the Khadim-e-Punjab Kissan Package for 2017-18 to revive agricultural sector.
‘Since more than 40 percent of Punjab’s labour is engaged in the agriculture sector, these funds were to ensure the welfare of the farmers and agricultural development by increasing yield per acre’ the official stance of the provincial government still reads.
According to the Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA), 144 tehsil centres in 36 districts have registered 211,369 farmers, 13,500 landless farmers (tenants) and 199,000 landowners. However, the Punjab Agriculture Department (PAD) statistics show the total number of registration as of October 30 to be 195,065, showing 11,269 tenants and 184,796 landowners.
Official figures state that Rs1.739 billion has already been disbursed to 38,637 applicants. This is in stark contrast to the five-year-package, which aimed at supporting 70 per cent new borrowers either having small holdings or working as tenants.
The government intended to provide Rs25thousand per acre for rabi crop and Rs40 thousand per acre for Kharif crop with three instalments on the season basis.
According to PAD documents, in Kasur, it was mainly the large farmers (those with over 50 acres of land) who could quote the details of the package – information that many of them had obtained from television. The same pattern was observed in Nankana Sahib, where only one farmer out of 25 knew some details, while in Multan, of 21 male farmers only two knew of the key features of the package.
Those who had heard of the package were of the opinion that many small farmers would be automatically excluded from at least the loan component, as the package requires those applying for small loans to not have a bad credit history and no outstanding debt.
A large number of farmers in the recent past have taken loans from the Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) and the rate of default on these loans is quite high, rendering more farmers ineligible.
There was also a feeling amongst small farmers in particular that registration for the package would be a cumbersome process on account of the documentation that they have to produce, particularly proof of ownership in case of jointly held property.
The package also excludes a large number of female farmers, who owing to societal norms either have never ventured for a bank loan or do not have documents proving their ownership of the cultivatable lands they own.
In terms of information from farmer’s organisations, sources said that the provincial field team met with members of the Kissan Ittihad, consisting mainly of farmers with landholdings of 10 to 50 acres; and members of the Farmer’s Associates of Pakistan (FAP), consisting mainly of large farmers, with holdings of more than a hundred acres on average.
The viewpoints on the Kissan Package from these two groups were quite different and showed both a lack of information that farmers had and the administrative lags that have resulted in the Kissan Package not yet being fully implemented in various areas.