Despite a good monsoon, crop loan recovery in Maharashtra hit a low of 35 per cent in 2016-17. This was lower than the recovery in three successive drought years between 2013 and 2015, the average of which was 54 per cent. According to senior government officials, Rs 51,235 crore was disbursed among 52 lakh farmers. Three successive droughts had led to a steep rise in loss of crops and revenue in 15,000 villages in 2013; 23,000 villages in 2014; and 28,000 villages in 2015. Maharashtra has 40,913 villages. Yet, in these drought years, crop loan recovery was 52 per cent, 54 per cent and 57 per cent, respectively, according to official data.
The state government’s core committee and farmers’ representatives are now working out stringent guidelines to define farmers eligible for loan waiver. Government sources said rich farmers, and those with alternative income, would not qualify for the promised waiver. The Rs 1 lakh ceiling that is likely to be imposed is expected to cover the small, marginal and needy farmers, whose number is pegged at 30 lakh.
Former agriculture minister and Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said, “Anticipation of a loan waiver is the main reason for the low recovery.” Another reason could be shortfall in sugarcane cultivation, he said. Holding the government responsible, Vikhe-Patil said, “Last year, monsoon led to higher foodgrain production. But the government failed to provide the MSP to farmers. This too may have led to their refusal to repay the crop loans.”
A BJP cabinet minister, however, said, “While anticipation of a loan waiver can be a reason, the cooperative network which is under the opposition’s control may also have fuelled the campaign against payment of dues.” Of the Rs 51,235 crore disbursed, the share of state-owned banks was Rs 26,470 crore, private banks Rs 4,126 crore, rural banks Rs 3,044 crore, district central cooperative banks Rs 17,548 crore and others Rs 44 crore.