The loan waiver to marginal farmers announced by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to end the farmers’ strike would 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 farmer’s strike which had paralysed Maharashtra over the last three days was loan waiver for farmers, which was accepted with a rider by the chief minister. Instead of a blanket loan waiver, the state government has agreed to a waiver for marginal farmers, who constitute almost 79 per cent of the 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 which has been plaguing the state since long.
However, analysis of the land holding data from the Agricultural Census 2010-11 shows the well-irrigated districts of Western Maharashtra (Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur) have the maximum number of marginal farmers. Of the 56,12,246 marginal farmers in the state, 18,73,156 are in this region, while Marathwada and Vidarbha have 125,9,430 and 9,04,959 such farmers. Farmers with land holding, not more than 2.5 acres are termed as marginal farmers.
Access to irrigation and popularity of cash crop have led to the legal division of land in Western Maharashtra. Agriculture being lucrative, western Maharashtra families tend to get land divided among themselves here. On the other hand, land holdings in both Vidarbha and Marathwada tend to be large as agriculture is not a very lucrative here. Also, population density being lesser than Western Maharashtra, land holdings continue to be large.
Ironically, the maximum benefit of the loan waiver will thus go to a region which has hardly seen farmer’s suicides while the areas which are ravaged by farm distress might not benefit much. Kishore Tiwari, chairman of the state government’s committee on farmer’s distress said the present waiver would mean around Rs 20,000 crores would be waived off.