Almost immediately after taking the oath of office and secrecy, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath Monday signed an order to waive farm loans up to Rs 2 lakh and pitched for more jobs for locals saying they were deprived of employment because of “outsiders” from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Hours later, Chhattisgarh followed suit with Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel announcing that the Cabinet had decided to waive loans of more than 16 lakh farmers to the tune of Rs 6,100 crore. Baghel also said that the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy will be increased to Rs 2,500 per quintal and that a special investigation team would probe the Jhiram Ghati Maoist attack, in which several Congress leaders were killed.
A farm loan waiver and more jobs in both states were among the Congress’s top promises in the poll campaign, reiterated in most public speeches and in the manifestos.
The loan waiver in MP is expected to cost the state exchequer around Rs 35,000-Rs 38,000 crore and benefit close to 34 lakh farmers. The Congress announced that farmers who had taken short-term loans up to Rs 2 lakh before March 3, 2018, will benefit from the loan waiver.
Referring to jobs, Nath said there were many schemes to attract investment in MP but only those industries that offer 70 per cent employment to people from Madhya Pradesh will get benefits. “Many industries come but offer employment to outsiders…Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. I don’t want to criticise them but people from MP are deprived of employment opportunities. They (industries) will get incentives only if they employ 70 per cent local people.”
Asked if this would require changing the existing policy, he said, “I have already done (signed) it.” Nath also announced that the government will set up four garment parks to create jobs.
Reacting sharply to Nath’s remarks, JD (U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said: “The MP CM’s statement is against the principles of federalism. People from one state can move to another state and work there. Kamal Nath has hurt the people of Bihar and other states working in MP. We want to know if AICC president Rahul Gandhi agrees with what Nath says.”
The party has returned to power in MP after 15 years and rural distress over falling prices was among the main issues in the campaign with Congress president Rahul Gandhi promising to write off loans within 10 days of forming the government. Gandhi had even said that the Congress chief minister who fails to do so will be removed.
After Kamal Nath announced the waiver, Gandhi tweeted: “CM, Madhya Pradesh waives farm loans. 1 done…2 to go.”
Nath said if loans of industrialists could be waived, there was no reason why farmers should be deprived of the same benefit. He asked why economists get a stomach ache only when farm loans are waived but not when big industrialists are the beneficiaries. He said even banks will have to rethink before waiving industrialists’ loans and not of farmers.
Another administrative order issued by the new government raised to Rs 51,000 the assistance given under the Kanya Vivah Yojana from Rs 25,000. This was another populist scheme initiated by the BJP government under Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
BJP general secretary and former chairman of the Kisan Kalyan Ayog, Banshilal Gurjar accused the Congress of cheating farmers by going back on its promise. He said the Congress had promised to waive off loans of all farmers but by introducing March 31 as the cut-off date, it has left out more and included only a handful. “If the party really want to provide relief the cut off should be extended to September 30, 2018,” he said.