Almost 80 lakh farmers and 120 lakh hectares of land have been badly affected by the incessant rain across Maharashtra. Apart from the crop loss, the damage to the fields is immense, sources in the agriculture department said.
Although the state government has announced a Rs 10,000-crore package, there are apprehensions about how farmers will be able to repay their crop loans or take fresh loans for rabi season.
Former agriculture minister and BJP kisan cell chief Anil Bonde said, “Although the state government has announced a Rs 10,000-crore package, the actual component for farmers is only Rs 5,500 crore. It will not help them recover even the investment made in kharif crop sowing.”
“On an average the financial assistance works to Rs 10,000 per hectare. It will be given for two hectares. The amount will be like immediate instalment to farmers to cope with finances for a couple of months,” he said.
Almost 78 per cent farmers in Maharashtra are small and marginal. The biggest challenge for farmers whose fields are badly affected is to restore soil health. There are 1.56 crore farmers in Maharashtra.
An official said, “Considering the financial constrains the state government could not provide more than Rs 10 000 crore. But it is looking up to the Centre to provide financial help…”
Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavlambhan Yojna chief Kishore Tiwari has welcomed Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s financial assistance. The farmer activist believes the Centre and the state should now expedite the process of crop procurement by activating its centres. The farmers who managed to salvage their kharif harvest or those districts which escaped rain fury should be helped through minimum support price for their crops. This would help at least a sizeable section in farming community to financially stabilise, he said.
The critical aspect which the government will confront ahead is loan recovery from farmers. The estimate is almost 75 per cent of farmers, especially small and marginal, will not be able to repay crop loans. And in wake of debt they may not become eligible for fresh crop loans.
Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis has urged the government to stop loan recovery from farmers. The farmers should be given greater extension and loans restructured to enable them cope with multiple challenges, he said.
According to a krishi kendra officer, “Average investment by a farmer on two hectares of land is Rs 75,000 to Rs one lakh. It includes seeds, fertilizers and wages. Now, if a farmer has lost entire harvest, he will look for minimum support base of expenses incurred. Unless he gets Rs 75,000 to Rs one lakh he would continue to remain in debt. If banks don’t respond, he will seek refuge in private money lenders. Therefore, one time financial package will bring short-term help but not solve the financial crisis faced by majority farmers.”
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