THE STATE government’s ambitious plan to bring 100 per cent farmers under institutional credit mechanism appears to be a far cry, as only 28.64 per cent farmers had access to the crop loan in the year 2018-19.
Of the total 1.36 crore farmers in Maharashtra, 38.95 lakh farmers availed the crop loan during kharif and rabi seasons in 2018-19. The farmer’s poor access to crop loan is alarming, especially in wake of the severe drought. This has adversely impacted the financial income due to crop loss, affecting small and marginal farmers who form 78 per cent of the total farming community in the state.
What can be noted is that there were no financial constraints as the government had provided Rs 58,324 crore through various financial institutions for disbursement of crop loans to farmers across Vidarbha, Marathwada, North Maharashtra and Konkan regions. According to the State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) report, “Of the total Rs 58,324 crore sanctioned for year (2018-19), crop loan amount disbursed was Rs 31,237 crore which works to 54 per cent.”
However, crop disbursement in backward regions of Vidarbha (46.9 per cent), Marathwada (43 per cent), North Maharashtra (45.4 per cent) was lower compared to western Maharashtra (75.6 per cent) and Konkan (82.4 per cent). The SLBC has officially stated that the lower crop loan disbursement is because of extreme drought in state.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “The financial institutions, including district cooperative banks, have been found lacking when it comes to reaching out to farmers.” The state government said the banks cannot deny crop loans to farmers. In the last 19 months, the state government has provided Rs 23,000 crore to write off the debt of 51 lakh farmers. So, at least 51 lakh farmers should have had access to the crop loan in year 2018-19. Instead, only 38.95 lakh got crop loan.
Pasha Patel, chairman of the Maharashtra Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices, said, “It is unfortunate that financial institutions always have reservations when it comes to extending crop loans to farmers. Their primary concern is recovery of the funds. The technicalities and tedious process often drives away small and marginal farmers.”
In Maharashtra, farmers’ access to district cooperative bank has ensured higher crop loan disbursement up to 90 and 107 per cent in the past. In 2018-19, the crop loan to farmers declined to 68 per cent. Last year, it was 60 per cent.
A senior official in the Ministry of Cooperation and Agriculture department said, “There are multiple factors that resulted in low access to crop loans. Almost 80 per cent of the farmers across the category often go to nearby banks for crop loans. The delay in enforcing the loan waiver and restructuring the dues by writing off interest denied sizeable sections. Second, smaller segments with repaying capacity may have waited for some more sops from the government, it being a drought year.”