Yavatmal: The Vidarbha region in Maharashtra has been in the news for a few years because of a spate of farmer suicides. To understand the impact of the government’s populist farm loan waiver scheme in this region, Mint has partnered with Dilasa, a non-governmental organization that works in rural Maharashtra.
Dilasa’s volunteers have been visiting farmers, banks and local administrators in Vidarbha’s Yavatmal district and filing daily reports on the scheme. This is Day 7, the last of the series.
The deadline has passed.
There are few gainers and many losers.
About 80% of farmers in each village of Vidarbha have been left out of the government’s ambitious farm loan waiver package.
Farmers say the manner in which the scheme was drafted and implemented shows little understanding of rural India and the conventional agricultural practices followed here.
In most villages, the agricultural land is owned by the whole family, the title of which is usually in the name of the family’s eldest male member.
While on the land revenue records a farmer may be owning 15-20 acres, his actual per capita holding may be far less.
The current ceiling of 5 acres (2ha) makes these farmers ineligible for a full waiver. The most deserving have been left to fend for themselves.
“The package will make poor farmers poorer while the already rich farmers of western Maharashtra (who traditionally have smaller land holdings) will get richer,” says Sandip Dhurve, who represents Kelapur constituency in the state’s legislative assembly.
“The Central government will spend Rs70,000 crore on the waiver, but the most needy, the debt-ridden farmers of Vidarbha, will get only limited relief. Instead, the government should have written off Rs50,000 worth of agricultural loan liability of every farmer. This way farmers across the board would have got some relief,” Dhruve, who belongs to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, said, while demanding a separate package for the region.
Like Dhurve, Prakash Dhambhare is also a strong critic of the package.
Vice-president of agriculture produce marketing committee in Yavatmal and himself a farmer, Dhambhare, too has, been left out. “I promptly repaid my outstanding debt. This disqualified me from seeking a complete waiver,” he says.
“Between 10 and 25 farmers in every village will get a total waiver. But 100 to 200 farmers, who were regularly paying their dues, will not get any relief,” Dhambhare adds.
Dhurve says the package was intended to pull the farmers out of the debt cycle and stem the tide of suicides. But the scheme has failed to address this very issue, he says. “Majority will not get any relief. The few who are covered will not get new loans at least for a month. Moneylenders will either not extend fresh loans or charge exorbitant interest rates. And the crop cycle has already begun. What option do these farmers have but to commit suicide?” Dhurve asks.