Maharashtra: Fadnavis blinks, vows mega farm loan waiver by 31 October
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Mumbai: Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday pledged the largest ever farm loan waiver for the state, giving in to increasingly politicised demands for the same that he tried to ignore.
The loan waiver, which he said would be completed by 31 October, will benefit farmers battling distress brought on by drought. Fadnavis said an information technology-based platform is being readied to identify the most deserving beneficiaries.
“The modalities are being studied and an IT-based platform like (the one used in) Andhra Pradesh is being prepared to ensure that wrong people do not misuse the loan waiver. That is why this exercise will take four months,” the chief minister said at a press conference.
He pointed out that the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) had highlighted irregularities in the implementation of a 2008 national farm debt-waiver declared by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.
“We want to be sure that we are taking this measure for the most deserving farmers who are in distress,” he said.
Later, Fadnavis said that the Andhra Pradesh model had helped the government in the southern state eliminate duplication of accounts and establish a money trail to the account of the intended beneficiary.
On ongoing farmers’ protests in the districts of Nashik, Pune and Ahmednagar, Fadnavis said violence and damage being done to property and farm produce was the handiwork of some politicians.
“I have taken information about the protests and the Maharashtra bandh yesterday. Almost all the people who pelted stones and threw farm produce are political leaders and not farmers. My government is open to talks with anybody including our political opponents as long as they have some good suggestions to make. But we won’t talk to those who are gunning from the farmers’ shoulders and who are exploiting the farmers for their political ends,” Fadnavis said without naming any party.
The chief minister said the bandh or protest drew little response. All but seven of the state’s 307 Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee markets operated, receiving 85% of the produce they do daily on average, he said.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Union minister of urban development M. Venkaiah Naidu, who was also present at the press conference, said the Centre had already clarified that it would not bear the cost of farm loan waivers declared by state governments.
“We have made it amply clear that the decision on farm loan waiver and its financial implications are state governments’ responsibility. The Centre did not have any financial role to play in the Uttar Pradesh farm loan waiver, in Andhra, and in Telangana too. If a state government thinks its finances are good, then it is free to take its decision,” he said.
Naidu accused the previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government in Maharashtra of ruining the state’s agriculture. “The farmers are in such a critical state because of these worthies of Congress-NCP who misruled. Fadnavis has inherited a badly ruined state. Yet, the (Narendra) Modi government and Fadnavis are investing in long-term solutions which will take time to bear fruit,” he said.