The BJP government adopted an aggressive stand Thursday to counter the Opposition parties that have repeatedly disallowed functioning of both Houses of the state demanding complete loan waiver for farmers.
Accusing the Opposition of politicising drought, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “The loan waiver is not a solution to the farmers’ problems. On an average, the loan waiver benefits only 25 to 30 per cent of the farmers, whereas the problems of small and marginal farmers who constitute 75 per cent remain unaddressed.”
The CM said neither one-time loan waiver nor repeated subsidies would bring prosperity. “My government is extremely sensitive to the farmers’ issues. We are aware despite subsidy food covering almost 68 lakh farmers spread across 14 districts in Marathwada and Vidarbha, crop insurance extended to 82 lakh out of 1.25 crore farmers, there are critical aspects. These are being worked out to make agriculture a sustainable sector,” he said.
Fadnavis said if loan waiver were a lasting solution, he would have pursued it even at the cost of all financial constraints. “But 15 years’ records documented across the state show loan waiver has helped only one small segment. The funds released under loan waiver has worked to the advantage of big farmers and financial institutions,” he said.
The CM reiterated that the most vulnerable segment of small and marginal farmers left out of the loan brackets having failed to repay their earlier loans or reeling under debt could not avail of the loan waiver.
Overriding political pressure from both the Opposition and a section within the ruling Sena-BJP, Fadnavis has been
saying he would not heed to this particular demand.
Stating that he would look forward to help from all parties and sections to tackle drought, Fadnavis said, “There are some issues in larger interest of the state when party lines become meaningless and we all strive to work unitedly. I urge Congress-NCP to make farmers’ issue a common cause with the government. Their experience and recommendations will be valuable. And that is possible only through debate.”
He said the government would provide relief to farmers through short- and long-term packages.
“But ad hoc package on paper without discussions is meaningless. In the last one year, the government has initiated policy reforms to address water problems in 25,000 villages out of 40,000 in Maharashtra. Yet, we need to adopt a multi-pronged sttategy to tackle the growing challenges ahead to cater to the farm sector, which constitutes 55 cent of the state’s population. The changes in the crop pattern coupled with adaptation of advanced technology and strong market network are some of the immediate measures,” he said.
Fadnavis, however, acknowledged that farmers’ problems could not be viewed in isolation of crop sown and yield produced. “Their secondary source of livelihood, along with upgraded infrastructure to bridge the urban and rural divide, are all part of the policy decisions to bring changes in the lives of drought-hit farmers,” he said, adding that his government was committed to achieving its “zero suicide” mission.
Congress leaders in the Assembly, however, stuck to their demand for loan waiver and staged a boycott when the government insisted on a debate on farmers’ issues.
Leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said, “I would appeal to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to lead an all-party delegation to Delhi to seek special package for farmers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
Earlier, Congress members walked to the Vidhan Bhawan like ‘warkaris’ (pilgrims) chanting hymns and donning white khadi cap. Like the devotees of Lord Vithal in the temple town Pandharpur, they played musical instruments and recited hymns to admonish the government.
Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat, along with MLA Vijay Wadditdiwar, MLCs Sanjay Dutt and Anant Gadgil, and former minister Varsha Gaikwad, raised slogans against the government.