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‘Loan waived but no info’, farmers father-son die by suicide; note blames Centre, state govt

On Friday night, farmers Jagtar Singh Bajwa (70), who had remained sarpanch of his village and was currently numberdar (second headman), and his son, Kirpal Singh Bajwa (40), died by suicide.

Two days after a father-son duo from Hoshiarpur’s Mohadipur village died by suicide, the focus is back on Punjab’s debt waiver scheme for farmers under which both were entitled for relief which never reached them.

On Friday night, farmers Jagtar Singh Bajwa (70), who had remained sarpanch of his village and was currently numberdar (second headman), and his son, Kirpal Singh Bajwa (40), died by suicide. Both were active participants in the ongoing farmers’ protest and the suicide note by the son blamed the Centre for the extreme step, while also pointing out that Punjab’s Congress government had failed to waive off their debt.

It has now come to light that six months back, they got a notice from a cooperative society about the auction of their house and property for recovery of the debt they took from the society.

This despite the fact that they were eligible for the debt waiver scheme of the state government announced in 2017.

Sources in Punjab government now claim that their file for debt waiver had been cleared recently, but they were never informed about it by the cooperative society.

Jagtar was a small farmer with 3 acres of land out of which he had transferred one acre each to his two sons. A portion of his one acre was sold by him a few years back to pay off loan from a private bank.

The father and son together had a debt of Rs 6.50 lakh.

After their death, Inderjit, Jagtar’s elder son who lives in a separate house and does farming on contract land, recovered the notice from Usman Shaeed Multipurpose Cooperative Society dated August 21 last year.

In the notice addressed to Kirpal Singh, it was mentioned that he has taken a loan of Rs 1,67, 365 and was a defaulter since July 31, 2018. “Your rate of interest on this is calculated Rs 38,053 till date and the total debt amount comes to Rs. 2,05,418,” it read. The total due amount was less than Rs 2 lakh with interest at the time Punjab government had launched its debt waiver scheme.

The notice directed Kirpal to return the amount within 15 days or face action under Section 63 C of Punjab Cooperative Societies Act 1961 under which “you will be arrested or under the Section 63 your house, property can be auctioned for the recovery of loan and you will not be eligible for loan from society in future”. The letter further said that this notice was also applicable on the guarantor, who in this case was Jagtar Singh.

Secretary of the society, Amrit Singh, said he was not aware of any such notice. He also said their file for debt waiver was cleared by the government in “September-October last year”.

Two separate suicide notes written in Punjabi were recovered from their home. Both notes said that every political party was after the votes of farmers and nobody was concerned about them.

Kripal Singh’s suicide note said the Narendra Modi government was responsible for their deaths, and that the Amarinder government had failed to provide them debt relief. Accusing the Centre of working to destroy farmers, the notes urged the Prime Minister to listen to the farmers’ Mann Ki Baat.

The father and son were quite active during the farmers’ protest and had spent several days at the Singhu border.

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