The Leader of the Opposition in state Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar led the attack on the government for its failure to consider complete loan waiver in Maharashtra, on Thursday.
Vikhe-Patil’s speech focussed on giving a “human” angle to the agrarian crisis and Ajit Pawar questioned the wisdom of the Devendra Fadnavis-led government in not awarding loan waiver, though it has been done by a newly created state like Telangana (Rs 17,000 crore) and even Andhra Pradesh (Rs 5000 crore).
However, a complete loan waiver in Maharashtra would require Rs 24,000 crore, sources indicated.
On Thursday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told the Assembly, “My government is equally concerned about the farmers’ welfare. I have always maintained that loan waiver cannot be a solution, alone, to override the farm crisis.”
On Thursday, the NCP declared its intention to begin work in the Assembly, putting an end to the three-days’ stalemate.
However, the Congress continued its boycott till lunch hour.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis held a meeting with Ajit Pawar and it was decided that NCP would initiate the debate on agro-crisis and loan waiver.
Sensing the NCP would get an advantage, MPCC chief Ashok Chavan held a meeting where it was decided that the debate on such an important issue should be initiated by Leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil. To facilitate the participation of the Congress, the House was adjourned for an hour during lunch break.
Ajit Pawar led his attack against the Fadnavis government saying, “ At times, it makes us wonder if the apathy towards farmers is because Fadnavis hails from Nagpur city.” The majority of the members, who represented rural Maharashtra, were unanimous in their demand for the loan waiver, he said.
Urging the government to set aside its anti-loan waiver mindset, he said, “The UPA government had in the past waived Rs 70,000-crore loans for the farm crisis.”
Hinting at the rapport between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Fadnavis, Pawar wondered how difficult it could be to extract funds from the Centre for the farmers.
Pawar also asked how the state government intended to address the issue of restructuring of loans and what measures were being taken to address the crisis in dairy and sugarcane sectors.
Pawar said, “ Today, even the bills for Bisleri water bottles, supplied to government workers, run in several lakhs. Why is the government avoiding loans to farmers?”
Pawar cautioned Fadnavis not to take the unrest of the farmers lightly as it would have a cascading affect in future on the socio-economic condition of the state.
He said, “I understand your foreign visits are to tap foreign investments and generate employment. But why are you overlooking the established sector of agriculture which has the highest employability? Can we get vegetables from abroad? Or milk from abroad?” he said.
On the other hand, Vikhe-Patil dismissed the government as “insensitive”. He said, “The delayed rainfall coupled with expenditure of resowing of crop and debt will have to be addressed through loan waiver.”
In the state Legislative Council, the echoes of loan waiver were louder with Leader of the Opposition Dhananjay Munde and former MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre raising the issue. The entire opposition felt that loan waiver was the only way forward to address the farmer’s crisis in the state.