The loan waiver for marginal farmers, announced by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to end the farmers’ strike, will help farmers in western Maharashtra the most. Access to irrigation and predominance of cash crops have led to fragmentation of land in the region, which is now going to help the farmers.
One of the major demands of the farmers on strike was loan waiver, which was accepted with a rider by Fadnavis. Instead of a blanket loan waiver, the state government has agreed to a waiver for marginal farmers, who constitute almost 79 per cent of active agricultural population in the state.
The loan waiver is expected to help them tide over the present credit crisis. Credit crisis is one of the major reasons for increasing farmer suicides.
Kishore Tiwari, chairman of the state government’s committee on farmer’s distress, said the present waiver would mean around Rs 20,000 crore would be waived. “However, the help will not reach those who are in need, if the government goes by land holding,” he said.
Analysis of land-holding data from Agricultural Census 2010-11 shows that well-irrigated districts of western Maharashtra (Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur) have the maximum number of marginal farmers. Of 56,12,246 marginal farmers in the state, 18,73,156 are in this region. Marathwada and Vidarbha have 12,59,430 and 9,04,959 such farmers. Farmers with landholding not more than 2.5 acres are termed as marginal farmers.
Access to irrigation and popularity of cash crop have led to legal division of land in western Maharashtra. Agriculture being lucrative, western Maharashtra families tend to get land divided among themselves there. On the other hand, land-holdings in Vidarbha and Marathwada tend to be large as agriculture is not very lucrative there. Also, population density being less than western Maharashtra, land holdings continue to be large.
Ironically, the maximum benefit of the loan waiver will thus go to a region that has hardly seen farmer suicides, while the areas that are most affected by farm distress might not benefit much.