Bengaluru: Chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy on Wednesday asked farmers in Karnataka to give details of their loans, including the amount and if it had been utilized, to the deputy commissioners of their districts within the next 15 days.
“I am committed to waiving off farm loans," he said told farmers at a meeting convened specially for discussing farm loan waivers, without specifying when the scheme will be implemented. However, in a statement, the chief minister said that all the modalities of the scheme would be ready within the next 15 days.
Kumaraswamy spoke after individual farmers at the meeting requested a complete waiver of loans, including those taken for occasions like weddings or for buying two wheelers and gold.
Kumaraswamy and his deputy G.Parameshwara made it clear that they would have to examine all claims before taking a decision. Far from his promise to waive Rs53,000 crore worth of farm loans within 24 hours of his assuming power as the chief minister, Kumaraswamy has advanced the delivery of his election manifesto assurances on account of having to consult with his coalition partners the Congress.
“In the next 15 days, Dr G. Parameshwara and I will meet Rahul Gandhi and also discuss this," he said while adding that he would have to convince the Congress president on the subject as well.
Just five days after proving his majority, Kumaraswamy’s government has seen pressure from all sections, especially farmers and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to waive farm loans.
Karnataka, which has seen over 3,500 farmer suicides in the last five years, has received scanty rainfall, resulting in droughts and pushing farmers further into debt. Though the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government announced a Rs8,165 crore farm loan waiver last year, the JD(S) went a step further to state that it would waive loans taken from even nationalised banks to gain the support of the over 40 million strong community.
Kumaraswamy said that last year’s budget (presented in February by Siddaramaiah) was of Rs2 trillion and that the waiver would have to be included in this amount. Though Kumaraswamy is set to present another budget, the Rs53,000 crore farm loan waiver would account for around 25% of the existing budget. He added that other than the farm loan waiver, he would have to look at expenditure on social justice, education, health, irrigation and other sectors.
He sought suggestions from the community.
Kumaraswamy said he will call a meeting with nationalised bank heads in the next two to three days and has plans for long term solutions for the agricultural sector to make the farmer debt free in the future.