After the news of Punjab government planning to launch health insurance cards for farmers hit the web yesterday night, the pro-government reactions started to come pouring in on social media. The hash tag #PunjabwithFarmers has been trending for long with people unanimously agreeing that the government has kept its promise of helping the farmers who have been at the forefront of ensuring food security of India.
Bhagat Puran Singh Sehat Bima Yojna
In the first phase of this ambitious project, the Punjab government will distribute health insurance cards to 3,03,074 cashless farmers. Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh is scheduled to meet the farmers of Sangrur district on 11 April and monitor the distribution of cards. Sikandar Singh Maluka, rural development and panchayats minister, will also distribute health cards at Bathinda on the same day.
- Under this scheme, farmers and their families will receive health cover of up to Rs. 50,000 for their treatment.
- In case of the death of the head of the family or accident causing 100 per cent disability to that person, the family of the farmer will get a compensation of Rs. 5. lakh.
- Under Bhagat Puran Singh Health Insurance Scheme, farmers will get cashless (and free) treatment. The objective is to provide farmers better treatment in empanelled hospitals.
Punjab Agrarian Crisis is Not a New Phenomenon
The reason why people are singing praises of this welfare scheme is simple: cases of suicides by farmers have seen a surge in the last few years. To give you the statistics, after Maharashtra, Punjab has the highest number of such cases. The number of suicides committed by Punjab farmers in 2015 due to agrarian crisis stands at 449. It is only second to Maharashtra, which has witnessed 725 cases. A simple study suggests that about 30 per cent of 1,690 suicide cases in 10 states during 2015 has been reported in Punjab – the Wheat Bowl of India. In fact, the 2016 Union Budget didn’t seem enough to stop farmers’ suicides in India.
Punjab CM’s concerns were not unfounded
Much before the Bhagat Puran Singh Sehat Bima Yojna was chalked out and implemented, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had sought PM Modi’s intervention so that the farming community in Punjab can get some respite from an agrarian crisis.
In December 2015, Badal had written to the PM with following concerns:
- There was a huge mismatch between the prices of agricultural produce and costs of fertilisers, pesticides, machinery and labour.
- In a bid to see a greater yield and contribute to the central pool, the Punjab farmers have “bartered away” two natural resources: soil fertility and water.
- Farmers in Punjab suffered huge financial stress because of“unviable and totally untenable prices of foodgrains” as the Centre wanted to keep them affordable for the poor.
AAP takes up another agenda
While the government is trying to address the concerns of the farmers by launching this insurance scheme, the AAP has taken up another issue to exert further pressure on the BJP-SAD alliance. The AAP state convener Sucha Singh Chotepur is scheduled to address close to 2,000 farmers at Shahkot in Jalandhar district and add teeth to protest against the notices issued for the cancellation of registries of some lands formally issued in 2007.
Keeping 2017 assembly polls in mind, the AAP has sided with the farmers from 26 villages to protest against the government over the issue. The farmers want to ask the government why they were asked to pay for lands which they have to vacate.
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