Maharashtra chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday promised to write off farm loans even as the farmers’ agitation in the state continued for the sixth day. He said that they will announce the waiver before October 31 and that modalities for it were being worked out.
“I can say with conviction that this will be the biggest loan waiver in Maharashtra’s history,” Fadnavis told reporters. He blamed political activists “hiding behind farmers” for road blockades as part of the agitation and said he would not consult “those seeking to make political gains”.
Fadnavis added that he would talk only to “true” farmer leaders. He vowed to “deal firmly” with those “using farmers for their vested interests” while warning parties. “It is evident that a section of political parties is interested in the strike to bake their own bread at the cost of poor farmers.” Where is the strike and where are the farmers, he asked. “These political parties are resting their guns on farmers shoulders to fire. They are interested in violence to unleash unrest in the state.”
Fadnavis said that 300 Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) out of the state’s 307 were operational on Monday.
Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said that their government was looking to cover the burden with the help of an additional Rs 10,000 crore mobilisation through non-tax revenues, 14 per cent growth in GSDP expected during the fiscal and also savings on expenses. Around 1.07 crore farmers, with less than five acres of land, would be eligible for the waiver.
But farmers, who have been agitating since June 1 for loan waivers, higher minimum support prices, continued with their agitation as prices shot up as a result of short supply of vegetables and fruits.
Officials said that the supply was half at Pune’s APMC, which pushed the prices up three to five times. The supply of vegetables was one per cent of the usual supply while there was no milk collection in Ahmednagar district.
Farmers locked offices of revenue officers in Kolhapur, Nashik districts and dumped vegetables outside offices of top officials in Ahmednagar and Amravati. Around two dozen Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna (SSS) members were held as they were protesting outside the collector’s office in Sangli and Amravati.
BJP ally Shiv Sena, which is supporting the agitation along with SSS, warned the BJP that the “lava of farmers’ pain” would create havoc if it did not heed their demands. SSS leader Raju Shetti said that his party would soon decide if it would continue to be a part of the BJP-led government.