CHIEF MINISTER Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday stressed that fresh crop loans for the ensuing Kharif season should be handed over to farmers on a “mission mode” to ensure that most small and marginal farmers find a place in the institutional credit mechanism. Speaking at a meeting to review preparations for the Kharif season, Fadnavis said; “Efforts to bring maximum farmers within the institutional credit mechanism through fresh crop loans should be taken up on a mission mode. All farmers who have availed loan waiver and cleared debt should get new crop loans for the Kharif season. Financial institutions should ensure they reach out to eligible farmers at the grassroots level.”
Stressing on meticulous planning, he added: “A lot of efforts should be made to ensure that farmers are not driven to dobar perni (second sowing of crops)… The onset of monsoons often lead farmers to begin sowing. But a long dry spell is often detrimental for crops. As a result, farmers have to go for a second round of sowing, which doubles their expenditure and results in low returns.”
Of the total 1.36 crore farmers in Maharashtra, the government has set an ambitious target of bringing 80 per cent of them within the institutional credit mechanism. At present, 67 lakh farmers have at some point availed crop loan from financial institutions. Nearly 40 lakh farmers are not part of the credit system due to their long pending debt since 2008-09.
According to official estimates, the government wants to bring 20 lakh more farmers, especially debt-ridden small and marginal ones, within the credit mechanism. For this, it requires Rs 14,000 crore and has urged financial institutions — district cooperative, national, rural and commercial banks — to support its initiative. The government’s loan waiver scheme of Rs 23,000 crore has helped 52 lakh farmers, enabling them to seek fresh loans this Kharif season. Now, with the government extending its loan waiver scheme to all debt-ridden farmers who had taken loans between 2001 and 2016, around 60 to 67 lakh farmers are set to benefit.
At the meeting, Fadnavis said he has asked agriculture universities in the state to prepare a ‘earn while you learn’ stipend scheme for students to carry out field work. Under the scheme, students will spend the next two months assisting farmers in the field by sending them weather advisory alerts and information on soil health and credit crop loans. The government will provide the students a monthly stipend.
On the government’s call for increasing credit crop loan, a senior officer representing the state-level bankers committee said: “NABARD is likely to increase long and short term agriculture credit crop loan by 15 to 20 per cent for Maharashtra.” In 2017-18, NABARD has provided Rs 86,836 crore for crop and agriculture term loans. While Rs 58,862 crore was for crop loan, Rs 27,973 crore was given for agriculture term loan.