Maharashtra: Govt announces Rs 10,512-crore package for drought-hit farmershttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/govt-announces-rs-10512-crore-package-for-drought-hit-farmers/

Maharashtra: Govt announces Rs 10,512-crore package for drought-hit farmers

Avoiding populism, state opts for higher investment in agriculture and irrigation sectors to make farmers self-reliant; CM says loan waiver has not yielded results

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A sizeable component of Rs 7,414 crore has been allocated for crop insurance to help farmers including those not covered by insurance.

The state government on Wednesday announced a Rs 10,512 crore package for farmers in the state, affected by recurring droughts. The package is tailored to ensure that farmers benefit from it directly, and not financial institutions alone.

A sizeable component of Rs 7,414 crore has been allocated for crop insurance to help farmers including those not covered by insurance. Cotton, soya bean, paddy farmers, amongst worst hit, would reap the maximum benefit from the package which caters to every segment region-wise.

Sensing the severe water scarcity, Rs 750 crore has been sanctioned for construction of 33,000 wells. Anybody seeking to build farm ponds would be given immediate sanction, with the government willing to make part payment.

Signalling a paradigm shift, more impetus is on higher investment in agriculture and irrigation infrastructure. It also plugs financial leakages of funds routed to financial institutions in the name of farmers. This was evident as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis stuck to his stated position of not falling prey to political populism of loan waiver. Instead, he replaced it with short and long term projects making investments for power and water sectors. How would loan waiver help when 60 to 65 per cent farmers cannot avail loans.

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Fadnavis said, “I am not against loan waiver, provided it ushers prosperity for farmers. But it has been repeatedly proved that loan waivers have not yielded results.”

“In 2008, Congress-NCP government in Delhi and Maharashtra together sanctioned Rs 7,000 crore loan waiver. The amount was credited in financial banks in the name of farmers. Whereas, my government today has sanctioned Rs 10,512 crore which would reach out to farmers directly.”

Apart from this, we put in place a mechanism to bring majority of farmers in institutional credit so that they can take bank loans and not be driven to money lenders.

The chief minister said there was nothing to substantiate that loan waiver had brought down farmers suicide. The number of farmer suicides in 2010 (Congress-NCP regime) was 1068 despite loan waivers between 2006-08.

Today, despite recurring drought for four consecutive years, the total farmers suicide is 1060. However, numbers were higher at 1449 in year 2006, he revealed.

He said, “There cannot be any alternative to greater investment in agriculture sector.” The chief minister said, “We ensured not a single farmer starves. And undertook a mission to help farmers come out of severe depression through medical counselling.”

Outlining the two-pronged strategy of immediate relief coupled with long term infrastructure investment, he said, “In the last one year, we identified 14 worst farmers suicides districts which have been given subsidized food at Rs 3 per kg wheat and Rs 2 per kg rice to 68 lakh farmers.” Moreover, the FSA covered 82 lakh farmers out of 1.25 crore covered under crop insurance.

Apart from the package, Fadnavis said financial support to make power and irrigation sector robust would be taken up on war footing. It includes Rs 2,500 crore for jalyukta shivar. In the second phase, 6000 villages would be taken up. The Rs 1,000 crore package to provide power connections to farmers is high on the agenda. By June 2016, all demands would be cleared.

Aiming to provide better livelihood to farmers, he unveiled the mega projects of milk processing in Bhandara and Gondia district of Vidarbha with the help of Nestle.

Under “orange unnati” project, private companies are being roped in to set up processing units in Morshi in Amravati district. 100 acres of land will be developed to cultivate Brazilian oranges.

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The government has taken the policy to enroll every individual willing to take up MNEREGA in drought-affected regions.