Even as the decision by the Maharashtra government to announce a complete loan waiver for farmers was met with euphoria among farmers, detractors said nothing additional had been announced beyond the promises made when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met protesting farmers on June 3. Sceptics have claimed that the entire process has been an eyewash and the systemic changes that farmers were seeking in the way the agrarian economy functioned have been left unattended.
“This is equivalent to putting a terminally ill patient on saline drip. This is not going to help farmers in the long run. These promises are similar to what were made on June 3, which were unacceptable to farmers then. It is surprising how the very same promises are being accepted by leaders now,” said Dr Giridhar Patil, a member of the farmers’ core committee who refrained from attending Sunday’s meet.
On June 3, Fadnavis after his talks with a delegation of protesting farmers had announced a loan waiver that was to be effective from October 31, 2017, and restricted to small and marginal farmers with landholdings of 5 acres. This was unacceptable to farmers.
On Sunday, the government-appointed committee announced a blanket loan waiver for farmers but was yet to formalise rules on which farmers would be eligible for the waiver. It has however waived the loans of small and marginal farmers with immediate effect who will now be eligible to seek new loans.
“The parameters of who will benefit apart from small landholders has not been decided. My gut feeling is that when the parameters come out, very few farmers who are out of the bracket of small and marginal farmers will benefit. We had been receiving the same sops from the government earlier as well, which we chose not to accept. We should have demanded fundamental and intrinsic changes in the way an exploitative agrarian sector works. We however have chosen not to do it and the plight of farmers will remain the same,” Patil said.
There had been increasing dissension within the farmers’ movement, which comprised 35 political and social organisations, on what issues they were fighting for.
A group led by Patil had been seeking fundamental changes in the way agrarian economy was allowed to function in the state and was against agitating for sops and loan waivers.
The group comprising Anil Dhanwat, Ramchandra Bapu Patil and Dr Budhajirao Mulik had not even attended the preparatory meeting of the core committee Saturday before it met the government.
“For a neo liberal party like BJP, farmers do not constitute its core support base. It will not go out of its way to help them. The government spoke about increasing the price of milk. We all know that milk cooperatives are run by Congress and NCP (leaders), which will bear the burden of this increased cost.
The stage will not lose a dime in this decision. In today’s situation, this farmers’ agitation was hijacked by politicians who are now willing to compromise with whatever the government offers and claim it as their victory,” said another senior leader of the agitation who did not wish to be named. Incidentally, there have been a spate of messages on social media against leaders who have dissented against the core committee.