The Congress on Thursday hit out at the Devendra Fadnavis government over frequent changes in the farm-debt waiver conditions. On Wednesday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced that the loan waiver scheme, which was earlier restricted to farmers who had availed loans from April 1, 2012 to June 30, 2016, had been extended to include those who had loan accounts since 2009. Party spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the earlier norms regarding the benefit promised for farmers holding loans in excess of Rs 1.5 lakh were also modified, after the Congress “exposed” the government’s move.
Since June 24, when Fadnavis declared a Rs 34,022 crore loan waiver scheme, the government has changed norms in this regard more than once. Initially, the government had declared that it would wipe out debts up to Rs 1.5 lakh of all farmers who had defaulted on loans availed in 2012-2016. It had further announced a one-time settlement scheme for higher-value loan accounts, where the government was to bear 25 per cent of the defaulted loan amount or Rs 1.5 lakh, whichever lower. After the Congress and the farmers’ groups raised a protest, the government withdrew the 25 per cent condition. If a farmer with a higher-value loan availed the OTS scheme, the government agreed to contribute Rs 1.5 lakh against the loan, while the farmer had to pay the rest. While the CM had earlier claimed that debts of 40 lakh farmers would be entirely wiped out following the waiver, later he revised this number to 36.10 lakh. Sawant claimed that the latest decision to extend the scheme to eligible farmers till 2009 was taken after his party had “exposed” how most of the farmers were being excluded from the benefit. “The series of reversals only show the government’s dishonesty towards the loan waiver.”
The Congress, which has also accused the government of inflating the beneficiary count, Thursday also dared the latter to “come clean on how many additional farmers would be benefiting from the extension”. While Fadnavis had earlier announced that over 89 lakh farmers would benefit from the scheme, the Congress has alleged that this number won’t cross beyond 15 lakh on account of various caveats introduced to avail the benefits.
The Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, meanwhile, also targeted the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena over the farm loan waiver issue. The Shiv Sena, which shares an uneasy relationship with its ally, had earlier in the day announced plans of protesting outside district banks over their failure to advance short-term crop loans to farmers. “I just cannot understand Uddhav Thackeray and his party. They are sharing power with the BJP. Their ministers support the loan waiver scheme in the Cabinet and welcome it, and then Thackeray takes a public position casting aspersions on the same. If anything, they should hold protests outside Mantralaya,” said Patil.
He reiterated Congress’s demand of a “blanket” loan waiver for all farmers who have availed loans till June 2017. He further demanded that those whose loans had been refinanced and restructured earlier should also be given the benefit of a loan waiver.