Maharashtra puts a cap of Rs1 lakh for farm loans up to June 2016
Mumbai: In yet another flip flop over the farm loan waiver issue, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Maharashtra has offered to waive off farm loans only up to Rs1 lakh which turned outstanding till 30 June 2016.
Maharashtra revenue minister and senior BJP leader Chandrakant Patil told a press conference late on Monday that the cap of Rs1 lakh would be applicable to farm loans which turned outstanding for three reasons—drought, crop failure, and indebtedness due to the inability to repay loans.
“These loans which turned outstanding till 30 June 2016, would be paid by the government into the farmers accounts,” Patil said. For those farmers who have regularly repaid their farm loans till 30 June 2016, but whose accounts have turned outstanding between 30 June 2016 and June 2017, the government would offer a relief package, Patil said without elaborating much. A government official who is part of the working group on loan relief measures said requesting anonymity that these farmers would be compensated by way of restructuring of their accounts and interest waiver.
The steering committee of farm leaders and activists, however, promptly rejected the government offer, reiterating its demand for a blanket farm loan waiver without any conditions. “We have rejected the proposal and we will sit together soon to decide future course of action,” convener of the committee and state secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha Ajit Nawle told Mint on the phone.
Patil was talking to reporters after discussions with the members of farmers’ steering committee who had demanded a blanket farm loan waiver without any riders. “The cap of Rs1 lakh would cover a majority of farmers. Representatives of farmers’ organisations did insist on blanket loan waiver that would have covered even loans above Rs1 lakh. But we must remember that the idea behind farm loan is to help out those farmers who do not have their own resources. So a majority of those farmers would get covered,” Patil said.
The minister said the waiver up to Rs1 lakh would cover those farmers who were hit by successive droughts from 2012-13 to 2015-16. “The Reserve Bank of India rules also say that only those loans can be waived off that have become outstanding due to drought, crop failure, and inability to repay,” Patil said. He, however, added that the government was ready to consider any formal proposal that farmers’ organisations may come up with for waiving off farm loans above Rs1 lakh.
On 12 June, Patil, who heads a ministerial group constituted by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to hold discussions with the steering committee, had announced a blanket farm loan waiver with certain riders. The government also decided to hold talks with the steering committee to decide criteria for eligibility. The steering committee had called off farmers’ protests with immediate effect but had warned that an even more powerful agitation would be launched if the government did not fulfil all promises by 25 July. “This government just does not want to give farm loan waiver. Even the announcement to waive off loans up to Rs1 lakh would have the fine print which puts in hundreds of riders,” Nawle said.
As the immediate mark of protest, the steering committee, which comprises 35 organisations, would burn the copies of a government resolution issued recently to give Rs10,000 loan to each farmer to buy seeds for the Kharif season. Nawle said the copies would be torched in front of each Gram Panchayat across Maharashtra on 21 June. “This government resolution has also put in a number of difficult conditions of eligibility for this meagre assistance of Rs10,000,” Nawle said.