Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has called a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to review a blanket loan waiver for farmers in the state. A universal farm loan waiver was central to the common minimum programme (CMP) drawn up by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government led by Thackeray before it came to power in the state.
While the previous BJP-led regime had rolled out a scheme to write off outstanding farm loans payable by marginal farmers by June 30, 2016, the Congress and the NCP, then in Opposition, had run an election campaign demanding a universal loan waiver.
While the BJP has been claiming that more than 85 per cent of farmers in the state had been covered under its scheme, the parties had argued that several farmers were left out owing to conditions imposed on beneficiaries.
On November 28, Thackeray, chairing the first cabinet meet, had directed officials to work out details of the number of additional beneficiaries that would be added on enhancing the ambit of the loan waiver scheme, and the resultant burden on the state exchequer. On Tuesday, senior NCP minister Jayant Patil also took stock of the state’s financial position.
Besides the loan waiver, the cabinet is also expected to deliberate on the compensation for farmers whose crops were ravaged by unseasonal rain towards the end of October. As per government’s estimates, the untimely rain had inflicted damage to standing crop on a staggering 93.89 lakh hectare of farmland across the state, impacting 1.04 crore farmers.
Before the President’s Rule was lifted on November 23, Governor B S Koshyari had announced a compensation of Rs 8,000 per hectare, up to two hectares for rain-fed crops, and Rs 18,000 per hectare, up to two hectares for perennial crops. At that time, the Congress, NCP and Sena, had demanded enhanced compensation at the rate of Rs 25,000 per hectare for rain-fed crops.
With debt mounting on the public exchequer, the new government is planning to raise additional resources for farmers’ welfare through diversion of capital funds previously committed as the state’s share in the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project.
Meanwhile, sources said, Thackeray has also instructed officials to place before the cabinet, all the decisions that were taken in the BJP-led government’s cabinet meeting on September 9, just before the model code of conduct was put in place. As many as 28 decisions, including some major ones involving the irrigation sector, were taken in that cabinet meeting.
While the confirmation of minutes of that meeting was not done, the Fadnavis cabinet had then issued instructions permitting departments to implement the decisions without the confirmation of minutes in order to beat the poll code of conduct.