Under pressure to enlarge the ambit of the Union Budget’s Rs60,000 crore farm loan waiver scheme, Congress party president Sonia Gandhi on Monday said her party felt the land ceiling cap should be increased to allow more farmers to benefit from the package.
Farmers in regions such as Vidarbha and Marathwada have larger land holdings and “we feel the benefits must be extended to them,” Gandhi said addressing farmers’ rallies in Osmanabad and Sangli towns of Maharashtra.
“This issue (of extending the benefits) was raised in Parliament by some members of Parliament, including Rahul Gandhi, and I hope that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister P. Chidambaram will take the appropriate steps,” she said.
The remarks by the United Progressive Alliance chairperson came within 10 days of similar demands made by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar at a farmer’s rally in Beed district.
Gandhi did not refer to Pawar or his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
However, in an apparent reference to the NCP, Congress’ Maharashtra unit chief Prabha Rau asked those taking credit for the announcement, to do some “rethinking” saying, “it was due to a letter sent by us on 10 March 2006 following farmer suicides that meetings on the subject were held by various bodies including the Planning Commission.” Rau said such leaders must rather concentrate their energies on creating better coordination between the Centre and the states so that Maharashtra benefits.
“We felt the farmers are sad and a worried lot due to which the decision to waive the loans was taken so that four crore farmers benefit,” Gandhi said.