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The timing is apt. Last week, Maharashtra’s Economic Survey highlighted just how poorly agriculture had done in the state in FY18, contracting 8.3%. This Sunday, some 40,000 farmers and tribals marched into Mumbai to confront the Maharashtra administration and demand agricultural reforms and relief measures. They won their battle after meeting chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday; his government has agreed to most of their demands.
That leaves it in a tight spot. The Survey also showed the deleterious fiscal effects of the Rs34,022 crore farm loan waiver scheme announced last year. The two concerns will not be easy to reconcile.
This is a problem for the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the centre that extends far beyond one state. There are rumblings of similar marches in several other states, culminating in Delhi in April. This is unsurprising. Waivers are a desperate measure that cannot solve structural and policy problems. With the general election due next year, the stakes for addressing the broad discontent in the agricultural economy are that much higher.