Maharashtra's Farm Loan Waiver

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, at the helm of a cash-starved BJP-led government,  announced a Rs.34,022-crore loan waiver that would provide relief to 89 lakh farmers across Maharashtra.
Fadnavis said loans of up to Rs.1.5 lakh taken between April 1, 2012, and June 30, 2016, would be waived, benefitting 35 lakh farmers. For nine lakh cultivators with loans of more than Rs.1.5 lakh, the state would clinch a one-time settlement, and 45 lakh non-defaulter farmers would get a one-time special incentive of up to Rs.25,000, he added.

After the farmers' 11-day strike earlier this month, the CM had said loans up to Rs.1 lakh would be waived. But farmers rejected the offer and intensified their agitation, prompting the government to take a fresh review of the waiver scheme.

Fadnavis admitted it would be “difficult“ for the state -its total debt is over Rs.3.73 lakh crore--to raise Rs.34,000 crore, and that “we will have no option but to drastically cut expenditure on key projects“. However, he said, the state had still taken the bold decision in the interest of farmers

Fadnavis said his government had taken the decision on a complete waiver after consultations with NCP president Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetti and leaders of the agitating farmers.

He emphasized that under the waiver scheme, which has been named the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Krushi Sanman Yojana, cabinet members, former ministers, sitting as well as former legislators and MPs, other elected representatives, state and Central government employees and income-tax payers would not be eligible. But the state's Class IV employees had been exempted, he added.

In 2008, the CM said, the Central government had declared a Rs.7,871.68 crore waiver which had benefited 37.83 lakh farmers. Only those farmers who owned up to five acres of land were considered then for the waiver, but now all restrictions on land holdings had been removed.

During the budget session of the state legislature, the opposition Congress and NCP had demanded a complete loan waiver. As there was no response from the state, leaders of the two parties took out a statewide Sangharsh Yatra to press for the demand. This was followed by Raju Shetti's march from Pune to Mumbai and the farmers' strike.

The steering committee that had organized the farmers' strike, though, expressed its dissatisfaction with the new scheme as well and has called a meeting in Mumbai on Sunday to decide its next course of action.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Kisan Sabha leader Dr Ajit Navale said that the government had taken only crop loans into consideration and ignored other farm-linked loans such as those taken for irrigation.

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