You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Maharashtra govt announces farm loan waiver

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-06-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: In a major concession to the farmers’ lobby in Maharashtra, the Devendra Fadnavis-led government in Maharashtra on Sunday announced a blanket farm loan waiver with certain parameters to ensure that genuine farmers get the benefit. Farmers who have regularly repaid their farm loans would only stand to benefit from this blanket farm loan waiver.

Following the announcement, farmer leaders in Maharashtra decided to call off protests scheduled for Monday. Maharashtra is the only state in India that has agreed to give a total farm loan waiver.

In addition, the government has also declared waiver of farm loans of marginal farmers—3.1 million out of the total 13.6 million registered farmers—with immediate effect. While the loan waiver for the marginal farmers will cost around Rs. 30,500 crore, the cost of total farm loan waiver for other farmers is not known. Last week, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced loan waiver for marginal farmers but ruled out a blanket loan waiver which according to him would cost “an unaffordable Rs. 1.14 trillion”.

Maharashtra revenue minister and senior BJP leader Chandrakant Patil announced this at a press conference here on Sunday. “This is a historic and revolutionary decision,” Patil said. Last week only, Chief Minster Devendra Fadnavis had said that the “biggest farm loan waiver in the history of Maharashtra” was on the cards. Chandrakant Patil was joined by farm leaders and members of the farmers’ steering committee which had spearheaded the farmers protest in Nashik, Ahmednagar, Kolhapur, Sangli, and Pune districts since June 1.

Chandrakant Patil, who also heads a high-powered group of ministers empowered to talk to farmers, announced this after a three-hour long discussion with around 35 representatives of various farm organisations and lobbies. Fadnavis had formed this ministerial group on Friday to discuss farmers demands.

All farm leaders who attended the meeting told a joint press conference that they were calling off the protest with immediate effect. “If these demands are not met by July 25, we will resort to an even more powerful protest,” said Swambhimani Shetkari Sanghatana president and MP Raju Shetty. Other leaders like the steering committee convener and Communist Party of India (Marxist) functionary Raju Nawle and Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raghunath Patil welcomed the decisions and hailed “the historic farmers’ protest and unity”. Shetty, Nawle, and Patil also stated that they would keep up the vigil and await implementation of the decisions failing which “a more powerful agitation would be launched from July 26”.

The strike call was originally given by Kisan Kranti Jan Andolan in Puntamba village of Ahmednagar district. But the farmers from Puntamba called off the strike on June 3 after they held talks with Fadnavis who assured that 70% of their demands would be accepted. Other farmers’ groups and lobbies had, however, protested this and even accused Fadnavis of breaking the farmers’ unity. The Nashik-based farmers’ groups had continued their strike and later formed the steering committee that now comprises 35 organisations.

While Chandrakant Patil and farm leaders did not give the exact figure of farmers who would benefit from the blanket loan waiver, Maharashtra agriculture and co-operative department officials estimate that the number would be in the range of 5 to 6 million farmers. “Since 2012, around 3.1 million marginal farmers have been ineligible for fresh credit because their farm loans have turned outstanding. The loan waiver would benefit them with immediate effect. There are around 7 million farmers who have taken crop loans or short-term credit from co-operative and commercial banks. Modalities will have to worked out but a rough estimate suggests that some 5 to 6 million of these would benefit from the total loan waiver,” said an agriculture department official requesting anonymity.

Patil said that the loan-waiver for marginal farmers in Maharashtra would be effective with immediate effect from Sunday. “These farmers would be eligible for fresh credit from tomorrow,” Chandrakant Patil said. Soon after the farmers launched the strike, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said that a debt-waiver for the marginal farmers would be rolled out by October 31 this year and it would cost Rs. 30,500 crore. Chandrakant Patil said this loan waiver has been granted with immediate effect now.

To work out the modalities of the total loan waiver, Maharashtra government has decided to form a committee that would also have four representatives from the farmers’ groups that carried out the protest, Patil said. “We have in principle decided to waive off all farm loans. But this time we must ensure that the genuine farmers whose livelihood depends on farming get the benefit unlike the previous loan waivers when people who just by virtue of having their names on the 7/12 land extracts got their loans waived off. Also, those farmers have to be helped who have repaid their loans regularly so that the credit culture and discipline is not disturbed. The committee will link farm loans with the farmers who are dependent on farming as their only means of livelihood and who deserve relief. Farm loans of all such farmers are being waived off,” Chandrakant Patil said. Raju Shetty and other farm leaders concurred with this. “We never demanded a blanket farm loan waiver that benefits even those who are not dependant on farming and who may misuse the relief. We are on the committee and we will help the government identify the genuine farmers who deserve this,” Shetty said.

Chandrakant Patil said the rate of milk would be increased by June 20. “We will also work out a milk pricing formula on the lines of the fair and remunerative price for sugar cane by which farmers will keep 70% of the profit and government will keep 30%,” Patil said. The farmers had demanded that milk price be raised to Rs. 50 per litre.

On the other key demand of implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, the government and farm leaders have agreed to take a joint delegation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The state government recommends minimum support price for crops grown in Maharashtra but the final price that is determined by the Centre is almost always lower than what the state recommended. This causes loss to farmers in Maaharshtra. We will take a delegation to the Prime Minister and request him to ensure that this loss is offset,” Patil said.

More From LiveMint

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon