The Maharashtra government will have to provide Rs 1.14 lakh crore to write off the entire loan burden of all 1.36 crore farmers in Maharashtra, stoking concerns given the state’s debt burden of Rs 4 lakh crore. Highly placed sources said the state budget for 2017-18 was Rs 2.57 lakh crore. “Of this, Rs 1.77 lakh crore is essential commitment, which cannot be tampered with. This leaves the state with a miniscule 0.80 lakh crore,” said an official.
Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, however, said there was nothing to worry. “Why should we worry about raising money when it comes to farmers? Do we ask questions when extending Seventh Pay Commission to employees or giving sops to industries?” Stating that they were yet to work out the exact amount required for the loan waiver, the minister said: “Maharashtra is a huge state and there are ways to raise the funds.”
The total loan waiver for 31 lakh small and marginal farmers works out to Rs 30,000 crore. The government has for now stressed on enforcing some parameters to ensure only genuine farmers avail the loan waiver benefits.
The government estimates the loan waiver amount will not cross Rs 35,000 crore. The eligibility category will not be applicable to individuals who have alternative source of income apart from agricultural landholding.
At the ministerial committee’s meeting with farmers’ groups, it was emphasised that the loan waiver should help genuine farmers and not become a bailout package for politician-controlled cooperative banks and agriculture societies.
Among the total 1.36 crore farmers, there is a sizeable number of politicians, elected representatives cutting across party lines, doctors, engineers and bureaucrats who own huge agriculture land against which loans have been availed.
The core committee of senior ministers and farmer representatives will evolve guidelines to ensure the above category people do not avail the loan waiver. The parameters will also incorporate the annual income base of individuals to determine who should apply for the loan waiver.
The government hopes farmer representatives such as Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana chief Raju Shetti and others would actively support the government in drawing pragmatic parameters.
During 2016-17, the total allocation of crop loans was Rs 51,235 crore, which benefited 52 lakh farmers across Maharashtra. The loans disbursed through national 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. According to data, compared to 2014, crop loans disbursed in 2016 show an enhanced allocation of Rs 7,942 crore, benefiting an additional 7.66 lakh farmers.