In a move aimed at farmers in Marathwada and Vidarbha, the state Cabinet on Monday decided to waive farm loans availed from licensed private moneylenders. Till now, farmers could only avail the benefit of waivers of loans taken from banks or government-approved sources.
While officials claimed the loan waiver amount may run into about Rs 200 crore, the government underlined that it was a “one-time relaxation”.
The decision to write off loan taken by farmers from moneylenders was taken by the government in 2015. It was followed by setting up scrutiny committees in 19 districts.
According to a report submitted by these committees, as on March 31, 2018, 46,735 farmers had borrowed Rs 55.96 crore from 1,393 moneylenders. The interest on this principle amount was Rs 10.59 crore. In all, the farmers owed the moneylenders Rs 66.56 crore.
However, the state legal department had then pointed out that many moneylenders had given loans beyond their prescribed limits in violation of rules. As a result, such “illegal” loan amounts were not considered for waiver. But now, the government has decided to waive all loans taken by farmers from licensed private moneylenders.
The government reiterated that under loan waiver scheme Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana, Rs 24,000 crore has been disbursed till now to 53 lakh farmers. The scheme was launched in June 2017 with a target to waive Rs 34,000-crore loan of 80 lakh farmers.
Meanwhile, to push agriculture reforms, the Cabinet on Monday launched the State Maharashtra Agriculture Rural Transformation (SMART) project and Maha DBT portal.
Under the Rs 1,200-crore SMART project, the government plans to work with the World Bank to introduce reforms in the agriculture sector across 40,919 villages.
Agriculture Minister Anil Bonde said while the World Bank will fund 70 per cent of the project, 26.67 per cent will be provided by state and 3.33 per cent by the private sector.
The Maha DBT portal, on the other hand, will enable farmers avail a cluster of agriculture-related welfare schemes with just one click. “Now, farmers can have direct access to agriculture-related schemed by submitting online applications. After processing the application, the fund will be credited to the individual bank account of the eligible farmer within 15 days,” said Bonde.
Further, the Cabinet approved the launch of Nanaji Deshmukh Krishi Sanjivani project in 15 districts, covering 2.5 lakh farmers in 142 villages, to cope with climatic challenges. It also approved poultry projects in 19 districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada.