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Tamil Nadu elections: Last-minute loan waivers may help ADMK, stall Opposition

The waivers have been welcomed by farmers in the Cauvery delta region, hit hard by storms, and the Covid lockdown that derailed food supply chains and markets.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
Updated: March 19, 2021 4:42:13 pm
Tamil Nadu election, AIADMK Tamil Nadu, ADMK tamil Nadu election, BJP Tamil Nadu elections, Dhinakaran AMMK, Palaniswami AIADMKDeputy CM O Panneerselvam during a campaign rally. (ANI)

Ahead of the Assembly elections, two announcements in the last leg by the AIADMK government seem to be paying off for it: a decision to waive loans up to Rs 2 lakh taken by women’s self-help groups from cooperative banks, unions; and loans taken against jewels up to six sovereigns from agriculture cooperative institutions by farmers.

The waivers have been welcomed by farmers in the Cauvery delta region, hit hard by storms, and the Covid lockdown that derailed food supply chains and markets. The state government claims Rs 12,110 crore worth of loans have already been waived, with around 16 lakh farmers benefiting.

G Ajithan, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Banana Growers’ Federation, who took a Rs 1 lakh loan, says, “There are many farmers who haven’t been able to repay loans for months and the interest was mounting. The loan waiver will definitely fetch the AIADMK votes.”

Ajithan says he had 4,000 banana plants ready for harvest when the lockdown was declared last March. “I expected about Rs 8 lakh for the harvest. All I could get was Rs 80,000.”

He adds that because the date regarding who would benefit from the jewel loan waiver was not specified, “hundreds have rushed to pledge jewels”. “This is really going to help the AIADMK,” he says.

L Abbas, a major banana farmer from Theni, says the government decision however is yet to reach all urban cooperative units. “As a clear undertaking, fund allocation in the budget is needed for these waivers, there is confusion,” he says.

The DMK, that had in January promised similar waivers, hopes the move won’t swing enough votes to undo the anti-incumbency against the AIADMK.

The Opposition has also accused the AIADMK of favouring own partymen for these loan waivers. P R Pandian, of the All Farmers’ Association in Tanjavur, asks why the delta region that accounts for 40% of state’s agrarian lands received only Rs 1,135 crore worth of loan waivers while Salem and Erode districts (in western Tamil Nadu, the stronghold of Palaniswami and several AIADMK ministers) received Rs 2,500 crore. “The entire West zone received about Rs 7,000 crore of the Rs 12,110 crore waivers,” Pandian says.

Mannargudi S Ranganathan, head of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Association, says parties make such announcements ahead of polls. “But if the motive is to help farmers, write off loans in private, nationalised banks.”

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