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Maharashtra farmers seek blanket waiver sans riders

LiveMint logoLiveMint 19-06-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: Representatives of Maharashtra farmers have sought a blanket crop loan waiver for all farmers, saying waivers must not be limited to those who have been repaying their loans.

A steering committee of leaders and activists from the state said this at a meeting with a ministerial group headed by senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and revenue minister Chandrakant Patil in Mumbai on Monday.

Ajit Nawle, convener of the steering committee and state secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, said the panel had insisted on a “blanket farm loan waiver as against the loan waiver with riders announced by the government”.

The steering committee also criticized the Kharif loan of Rs10,000 per farmer announced by the state government to help farmers buy seeds.

“We had never asked for this Rs10,000 loan for which the state government is determining very tough criteria. There are no clear instructions to banks and a majority of Kharif farmers will be denied this loan if the government goes ahead with the criteria it has fixed,” Nawle said.

“The farmers decided to call off their strike on June 12 when the government agreed to extend a blanket farm loan waiver. The term blanket is the operative word here. But since then the government has stated that it is defining parameters and riders to fix eligibility of farmers for loan waiver. This is not what we fought for,” Nawle said after the first round of the meeting.

Apart from Chandrakant Patil, the ministerial group comprises finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, co-operations and marketing minister Subhash Deshmukh and agriculture minister Pandurang Phundkar.

A state government official who attended the meeting said the ministerial group had shown willingness to relax the conditions for eligibility for the Rs10,000 loan.

“The government has already made it clear that this loan is independent of the farm loan waiver for which the criteria are being determined. The government never declared a blanket farm loan waiver and in fact chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has made it clear umpteen times that a full loan waiver is beyond the capacity of any government,” this official said, requesting anonymity.

Nawle, however, insisted that the farmers’ stir was for a full loan waiver. “There is no compromise on this demand and we had declared on June 12 itself that we would resume the protest if our demands are not met in totality,” he said.

On 12 June, the Maharashtra government declared two loan waivers. One was for 3.1 million farmers who owe banks Rs30,500 crore since 2012. These are marginal farmers who are out of the institutional credit system. Their loans were waived off with immediate effect and the government said they would be eligible for fresh loans from 13 June onwards. However, farmers representatives have complained that banks that have extended these loans have not received written instructions from the government.

The Maharashtra government also declared that it would waive off loans of farmers who are in distress and who have been repaying their loans. To identify these farmers, the ministerial group and steering committee had agreed to hold meetings.

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