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Siddaramaiah waives off Rs8,165 crore farm loans in Karnataka

LiveMint logoLiveMint 21-06-2017 Sharan Poovanna

Bengaluru: Yielding to pressure from farmer groups, opposition parties and farm loan waiver decisions in other states, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday announced waiver off Rs8,165 crore worth of crop loans borrowed by farmers from cooperative banks.

He announced that his government would waive off crop loans of up to Rs50,000 per farmer availed till 20 June.

“This will benefit 22,27,506 farmers in the state,” Siddaramaiah announced to thumping applause in the legislative assembly on Wednesday. He added that a directive to this effect will be issued at the earliest. “Loans worth Rs8,165 crores will be waived, benefitting 22,27,506 farmers across state. We know that empowering farmers is #EmpoweringKtaka,” Siddaramaiah wrote on microblogging site Twitter on Wednesday.

The Congress-led Karnataka government’s move to waive off loans comes two days after Amarinder Singh-led Punjab government announced the waiving off up to Rs2 lakh loans taken by small and marginal farmers.

Other state governments such as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have made similar announcements to quell the growing demands of distressed farmers, following a crash in prices of farm produce.

Facing its second successive drought year, the state has been reeling under acute drinking water shortage and declining agricultural activity in recent years.

“I order the centre to waive off farmer loans taken from nationalised and commercial banks,” Siddaramaiah said, shifting the focus on the Union government to do its part for farmers.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday ruled out any farm loan waivers from the centre and said that it will adhere to its fiscal targets—a statement which opposition political parties are using to corner the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

Congress legislators in Karnataka screamed “shame BJP” while stating that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had waived off Rs74,000 crore in 2008.

The total farm loans in Karnataka stands at over Rs1.16 trillion. Of this, crop loans account for over Rs52,000 crore. Crop loans taken from state cooperative societies account for Rs10,736 crore (20-22% farmers), while loans taken from nationalised and commercial banks account for over Rs42,000 crore (around 80% of farmers), Siddaramaiah said.

Former chief minister Jagadish Shettar had announced waiving off up to Rs25,000 per farmer totalling Rs3,600 crore and benefitting 16 lakh farmers in 2012.

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