Stating the farm loan waiver announced by the Maharashtra government on Saturday is “inadequate”, NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday said his party will push for expansion of the ambit of the measure to ensure inclusion of those farmers who are left out. Pawar, however, said the NCP’s stand on the issue will be of “cooperation and coordination” with the government.
The Devendra Fadnavis government unveiled a mega Rs 34,020 crore farm loan waiver scheme that will see debt of up to Rs 1.5 lakh per farmer being written off.
Addressing a press conference in Pune, Pawar said the NCP is of the view that the loan write-off is the “first and crucial step” in the right direction to provide the relief to farmers. “The (loan waiver) decision of the government does not fulfil all the demands of farmers, and some organisations have protested against this loan waiver. However, I am of the opinion this is the first step in the right direction as the government has taken up the financial responsibility (for the write-off). “The measure taken by the government is not sufficient. However, we think that farmers will get relief and we are not ready to come to the conclusion that this decision is not wise,” the former Union agriculture minister said.
The loan waiver scheme, being touted as the “biggest ever” such measure by any state in the country, is expected to make 40 lakh farmers “debt-free” and will provide relief to 49 lakh others. Pawar said though the NCP was not entirely satisfied with the loan waiver, the party’s stand will be of co-operation and co-ordination with the government. In the coming days, the NCP will push for the farm loan waiver for the remaining farmers, he said.
“I met chief minister Devendra Fadanvis on this issue on Friday and discussed various aspects of the farm loan waiver scheme. During the meeting, we pushed for several demands and the government has shown a positive approach. “We had pushed for a demand that farmers having a loan outstanding of over Rs 1.5 lakh should get their loans waived up to Rs 1.5 lakh and the government has agreed,” he said.
The NCP chief said he had also asked the government to allow farmers to pay their unpaid debt in instalments. “There is a strong reaction coming in from those who are regular in paying their farm loans and we have asked the government to increase the subsidy to Rs 50,000 to such farmers as the present subsidy of Rs 25,000 will not suffice,” said Pawar.
In a bid to ensure that those farmers who regularly pay their loan installments are incentivised, the chief minister on Saturday said such farmers will get a relief of 25 per cent on the paid amount, capped at Rs 25,000. Pawar said the next task of the government is to find out the reasons behind farmers getting debt-ridden and to work on a solution to avoid recurrence of such situation (farm loan waiver).
He asked the government to implement the Swaminathan Commission report, which was one of the prominent demands of the protesting cultivators, in its “true letter and spirit”. “It was the BJP’s electoral promise that they would implement Swaminathan Commission report if they come to power in various states, and now they should implement it (the report),” the veteran politician said. He said the chances of farmers getting debt-ridden will be minimised if the Swaminathan Commission report is implemented.
Pawar further demanded the Commission of Agriculture Cost and Prices, which has not been set up since the new Central government assumed office in 2014, should be formed. “People with relevant experience and experts in the area should be appointed to the Commission so that there will be better coordination with the Central government over the issue,” he added.
Pawar said the Reserve Bank is not accepting the demonetised notes from cooperative banks despite the Central government’s announcement to this effect recently. “We insist that government should issue a notification and provide a respite to the banks, which are facing hardships,” he said.