Maharashtra to continue agri investments despite farm loan waiver burden
Mumbai: Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Tuesday that the state government will continue to make long-term investments in the farm sector to double the income of farmers in five years.
Fadnavis told a delegation of farmers that the state government had already invested around Rs18,000 crore in the farm sector in two-and-a-half years to expand irrigation network, crop insurance coverage, and establish market-linkages for farm produce.
“Though we have declared an expensive farm loan waiver, the bigger challenge is to continue long-term investments. We have identified solar energy, replacing the existing energy-consuming agriculture pumps with energy efficient pumps, and drip irrigation as three areas to enhance this long-term investment,” Fadnavis said.
Farmers and elected representatives from 40 villages which had passed resolutions in their Gram Sabhas (village panchayat assemblies) to support the call for farmers’ strike first given by Puntamba village for a blanket loan waiver and other demands felicitated Fadnavis and other Maharashtra ministers for the farm loan waiver. On 24 June, Fadnavis declared a loan waiver of Rs34,022 crore to benefit 8.9 million farmers in the state.
Fadnavis pointed out to the farmers that the loan waiver was a huge financial burden the government had agreed to take it on to provide relief to farmers. He said the Rs34,022 crore farm loan-waiver given by the state government was more than double what the state’s finance department had recommended. “The finance department said that no other state had given a loan waiver costing more than Rs15,000 crore. But we told them to not worry about money and that we will think of ways to raise money and even raise fresh debt. Even before the loan waiver was declared, the state budget was running a revenue deficit of around Rs4,000 crore,” he said.
The chief minister said loan waiver was not the final solution to the agrarian crisis. He said the real solution was in making sure that the farmers got profitable remunerative prices. “Farmers will get good support prices if productivity is raised. Productivity will increase only if we continue to make long-term investment in agriculture infrastructure like irrigation and electricity which will help the farmers bring down the cost of production,” he said.
The government is working on installing a separate solar-power based feeder for agriculture that would bring down the per unit cost of energy for farmers, Fadnavis said. This project would be launched from Ralegan Siddhi village in Ahmednagar district, made famous by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare’s rural development projects, Fadnavis said.
“Currently the per unit cost for farmers is Rs5.5 of which the government bears subsidy burden of Rs4. The solar feeder that we are laying down will bring the cost of energy to Rs3 and will help us formulate a 25-year-long energy supply plan that will cap the per unit rate at Rs3 only. The amount that the government will save due to solar feeder will be invested in replacing the energy consuming agriculture pumps with energy efficient pumps. We are also investing in a big way in drip irrigation and decentralised conservation projects under Jalyukta Shivar,” he said.
The chief minister also reiterated that the proposed 700-km long Mumbai-Nagpur Prosperity Corridor was not against the farmers’ interests. “In fact, the project seeks to establish market linkages and value chain like cold storages and warehouses for farmers along this corridor. Agriculture income will rise only if we are establish market linkages and value-chain,” he said. Farmers in Nashik, Ahmednagar and Thane districts are opposing the project.