Caught In Debt Trap For Decades, Four Generations Of A Family Commit Suicide In Punjab
An unpaid loan by a Barnala based family 40 years ago claimed the lives of four generations in Punjab.
The loan amount took the life of his father and grandfather, and finally 22-year-old Barnala man, Lovepreet Singh was also caught in the vicious circle of debt. Lovepreet consumed pesticides on his fields in Bhotna village on Wednesday, September 11 after he failed to repay the amount, police said.
Lovepreet was entitled to a loan waiver up to 5 lakh under the Farm Debt Waiver Scheme (2017), but got a waiver of Rs 57,000.
Of the total Rs 8.57 lakh loan, the Singh family took a loan Rs 6 lakh from private money lenders and Rs 2 lakh from banks over several years.
While the unpaid loans increased to Rs 9 lakh, Singh’s combined landholding decreased to little over an acre from 12 acres over the years.
Lovepreet’s mother Harpal Kaur and sister Manpreet Kaur are now under pressure to repay the debt. “My husband’s suicide had made Lovepreet take up farming on a bigger scale in a bid to earn enough to clear our debt. This season, he had taken 5 acres on lease. But nothing worked out for us. It seems we are cursed as a family,” Harpal told the media.
Manpreet said that now they will not demand anything from the government as they have lost all hopes.
The first suicide in this family took place 40 years back when Lovepreet’s great grandfather Joginder Singh committed suicide. His son and Lovepreet’s grandfather Bhagwan Singh also ended his life 25 years back, after they failed to repay the loans. Kulwant Singh, Lovepreet’s father, too was unable to cope up with the stress and ended his life in 2018.
Barnala Senior Superintendent of Police Harjit Singh claimed that the investigations also verified Harpal’s statements that all suicides in the family were triggered by debt trap.
On January 5 2018, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh launched a debt relief scheme for marginal and small farmers after an increase in the cases of farmer suicides.
Punjab government’s farmer loan waiver scheme, however, failed to prevent farmer suicides in the state with over 60 farmers committing suicide after the scheme was introduced.
Members of NGO– Scientific Awareness and Social Welfare Forum wrote to the Chief Minister alleging that the debt waiver scheme of the government has failed.
“The government must give a complete debt waiver to farmers. Lavpreet is the 5th member of his family to commit suicide. Apart from the waiver, the government must start special camps across the state to counsel farmers and prevent them from ending their lives,” Dr AS Mann, president of the NGO said.