The Maharashtra government is set to extend relief to drought hit farmers by imposing a stay on recovery of loans and electricity bills in the face of growing unrest among farmers because of scarcity of water and fodder shortage.
At the end of a four-day tour to some drought hit districts of Marathwada and Ahmednagar, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the government would soon take a decision in line with norms of financial institutions and co-operative banks on repayment of interest and loans before extending fresh loans in the Rabi season. The decision is expected to benefit 40 lakh farmers across eight districts of Marathwada, western Maharashtra and Vidarbha.
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The crop failure coupled with a poor monsoon has compounded the financial woes of farmers. But the state government is not in favour of a complete loan waiver. The government would have to incur a loss of Rs 28,000 crore if it were to write off outstanding loans to farmers. Besides, the government is of the view that the loan waiver may not work to the advantage of small farmers or labourers. The government had earlier mandated that power dues should be cleared to ensure continuation of power supply. However, considering the financial burden on farmers, the government wants to ease these norms for one season.
Fadnavis said the immediate concern is to provide relief to farmers. Districtwise planning for sustained drinking water supply has been done using water from dams rivers and wells, he said adding that if required fodder would be bought from Madhya Pradesh or Karnataka. The district administration has been directed not to turn down anyone seeking work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme under which jobs have been provided to 11.50 lakh people in five districts of Osmanabad, Beed, Latur, Parbhani and Nanded. District officials are promoting a hydroponic system to create fresh fodder within a short period of ten to 15 days. They are urging prosperous farmers to undertake hydroponic experiments and help bridge the gap in supply of fodder in their respective villages.
Fadnavis said that ahead of the Rabi season the government wants maximum farmers from drought hit regions to avail of fresh loans. The government was working on policy decisions to help farmers combat drought, he said. Through the day, the CM visited Pimpri Pathar, Dhavelwadi, Satwad in Ahmednagar district and held meetings with farmers. At the review meeting, he stressed the role of gram sabhas and greater coordination between local district officials.