India Maharashtra farmers end protest after loan waiver

The state finance ministry is feeling the heat of the Maharashtra government's decision to grant a "criteria-based" loan waiver to all farmers on Sunday.

Farmers in the western Indian state of Maharashtra have temporarily ended a protest after the state government promised to write off their loans. "The loans of farmers with small land holdings stand waived from today itself", Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil said.

Though happy with the State Government's decision, a circumspect Swabhimani Sehtkari Sanghatana (SSS) MP and farmer leader Raju Shetti said if the Fadnavis Government did not implement its loan waiver decision by July 25, the farmers would resort to a more intense agitation from July 26.

"The interest is subsidized partially by NABARD and partially by state government", said an official pleading anonymity."Nothing like loan waiver is being mulled over as of now", said the official.During the ongoing strike the farmers are also demanding loan waiver.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis (Maharashtra) who had been consistent over the years--since he became Chief Minister in October 2014- in refusing to talk to agitating farmers was forced to eat his words, and hold lengthy meetings to address their immediate concerns this time around.

But it has also given rise to calls for similar measures in other states. However, it agreed to underwrite farm loan waiver worth Rs 36,000 crore in the case of UP, allowing political compulsions to override economic prudence.

"We have found that the loan waiver scheme introduced previously had benefited the rich farmers largely in Maharashtra". The official said in view of the precarious condition of district cooperative banks, the CM may also approach PSU banks to provide fresh loans to farmers. "Beyond that, the Central government has nothing more to say", Jaitley said.

The farmers called off their stir after the Government came out with the loan waiver. Farmers' outfits are expected to meet on June 20 to decide the course of action, he said.

In Gujarat, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the RSS-affiliated farmers' body, has demanded farm-loan waiver, claiming that farmers have been facing losses due to increased cost of production and reduced realisations.

"Farmers and their betterment was, is, and always will be, this government's top priority", Fadnavis said. "I will put forth the issues of the farmers before the departments concerned".

  • Leroy Wright