Mumbai: Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told the state legislative assembly on Thursday that he would lead a delegation to the centre to discuss a waiver of farm loans and other measures to boost agriculture.
The delegation would meet Union ministers for finance and agriculture, Fadnavis said in a statement on the demand for a farm loan waiver by the opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Both Houses of the state legislature were adjourned for the day as opposition parties demanded an immediate waiver. Fadnavis said his government was in favour of a farm loan waiver, but it was also making long-term investments in agriculture to raise productivity and farmers’ income so that they could be freed from a debt trap.
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He said the government had already invested Rs30,500 crore in various long-term measures to provide permanent solutions to the chronic agrarian crisis in Maharashtra. “This amount is as big as a farm debt-waiver would cost us today. The measures that we have initiated are aimed at taking the state’s farm economy from debt to investment,” Fadnavis said.
He conceded that while a debt-waiver could provide immediate relief to the farmers, the government was investing money and time in measures that ensured farmers are not pushed into a debt-trap.
He also cautioned the opposition that paying for a farm-loan waiver would mean cutting down on development and capital investment works in the state. “If there is one section that is most deserving of this capital investment, it is the farmers,” Fadnavis said.
The chief minister told the House that the state had 13.6 million bank account-holding farmers. These farmers have taken Rs1.14 trillion in loans from formal lending institutions, he said, which included Rs63,000 crore as crop loans and Rs51,000 crore as term loans. He added that due to a variety of reasons, 3.1 million farmers owed as much as Rs30,500 crore to banks.
“This government has made capital investment of Rs19,434 crore in agriculture and allied activities, which is a record. We have spent Rs2,000 crore on crop insurance, Rs8,000 crore on compensation to farmers hit by natural calamities, and Rs11,500 crore on raising farm productivity. All this investment adds up to nearly Rs30,500 crore which is as much as a debt-waiver would cost in Maharashtra,” Fadnavis said.
Fadnavis said a 2008 loan waiver in fact helped banks clean their books of non-performing loans and loans given to politicians and their cronies. “Did farm debt-waiver stop suicides? Far from it. During the five years from 2008 when crop loans were waived, Maharashtra reported as many as 16,000 farm suicides,” Fadnavis said.