Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Saturday announced a major farm loan waiver of Rs 34,000 crore. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the farmers’ loans below Rs 1.5 lakh will be waived off. This will benefit 90 per cent (89 lakh) of the farmers in the State.
The decision was announced by Fadnavis after an unscheduled meeting of the State Cabinet. The package will also have a special scheme for farmers who have been regularly paying their dues.
The loan waiver scheme is named after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and will be known as ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Krishi Sanman Yojana’.
The government also decided to raise the cap of loan waiver per farmer to Rs 1.5 lakh regardless of the land holding. Earlier this week, a high powered group of ministers headed by Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil had offered to cap the waiver at Rs 1 lakh.
There were huge protests by farmers in the State demanding loan waiver. After the protest, the government decided to announce the loan waiver to the farmer. Meanwhile, Fadnavis met NCP Chief Sharad Pawar in Delhi on Thursday and discussed the issue. “We have decided to write off loans up to Rs 1.5 lakh of individual farmers,” Fadnavis said in Mumbai.
Loans of about 40 lakh farmers will be waived. Further, incentives will be given to farmers who have been paying dues regularly. About 25 per cent of their loans will be paid off if they have repaid. About 89 lakh farmers will benefit and among these, 7/12 extracts of 40 lakh farmers will become completely debt-free while, Fadnavis said.
The loan waiver would make nearly 90 per cent of the indebted farmers in the State ‘debt-free’. He further said that the loans taken by farmers till June 2016 will be waived off. “The government could not take a bigger financial burden than this. Rs 34,000 crore is a huge burden and we may have to cut down on some government works. Fiscal discipline will have to be reinforced to offset the impact on finances,” he said.
He said Maharashtra had one of the lowest – Rs 54,000 – per agriculture household debt in the country which was half the per household debt of several states including smaller states. “The government tried to build a wide political consensus on the loan waiver and reached out to all political parties and farm organisations. Every political party and organisation to appreciate that Maharashtra cannot afford a financial burden more than this and that they would all welcome this loan waiver,” he said. According to the government, elected representatives, traders who are farmers but who paid value added tax, big farmers who paid income tax, and the Central and State government employees who had their names on the 7/12 extracts would not be eligible for the waiver.
“We are satisfied. Our leader Uddhav Thackeray was keen on Rs 2 lakh cap but agreed to Rs 1.5 lakh,” said Shiv Sena leader and Transport Minister Diwakar Raote. Shetkari Sanghatana and Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, however, termed the loan waiver as a let down. “We will resume our agitation till a blanket loan waiver is announced,” said Raghunathdada Patil from Shetkari Sanghatana.