UP’s farm loan waiver trig­gers sim­i­lar de­mands and fierce vi­o­lence in two BJP-ruled states

India Today - - INSIDE - By Ki­ran D. Tare and Rahul Noronha

Yogi Adityanath’s procla­ma­tion of a partial farm debt waiver in Ut­tar Pradesh in March has pro­voked a storm in two other BJP-ruled states. Since June 1, iden­ti­cal scenes have played out across both Ma­ha­rash­tra and Mad­hya Pradesh—fu­ri­ous farm­ers de­mand­ing debt waivers and re­mu­ner­a­tive prices, block­ing milk and veg­etable sup­plies to cities, in­clud­ing Mum­bai and Bhopal, and ex­press­ing their col­lec­tive an­guish by dump­ing hun­dreds of litres of milk and tonnes of fresh pro­duce on the roads.

In Ma­ha­rash­tra, chief min­is­ter Deven­dra Fad­navis faces a tough chal­lenge with two ma­jor farmer col­lec­tives—the Kisan Kranti An­dolan in Ahmed­na­gar and the Kisan Sabha across Nashik, Os­man­abad, Au­rangabad and Kol­ha­pur—block­ing sup­plies to cause a 40 per cent short­fall in milk and veg­etable sup­plies in met­ros.

The ag­i­ta­tion in neigh­bour­ing MP ev­i­dently has a bit of po­lit­i­cal tinge. Called by the Bharatiya Kisan Maz­door Sangh (a break­away group of RSS af­fil­i­ate Bharatiya Kisan Sangh), headed by for­mer BKS chief Shivku­mar Sharma, the strike was just as fe-

ro­cious. Farm­ers block­ing roads clashed with the po­lice and stalled all sup­plies to cities. The west­ern MP dis­tricts of Neemuch, Mand­saur, Dhar, Rat­lam, In­dore, Sha­japur, Khandwa and De­was bore the brunt of the vi­o­lent ag­i­ta­tion.

Fad­navis has said his govern­ment is look­ing at waiv­ing the debt of 3.1 mil­lion (of Ma­ha­rash­tra’s 13.1 mil­lion) farm­ers who’ve been pushed out of the in­sti­tu­tional credit sys­tem be­cause of pend­ing loans. He said the state would need Rs 30,500 crore to write off the debt. Fad­navis, how­ever, ruled out a com­plete loan waiver, which at Rs 1.32 lakh crore would be more than Ma­ha­rash­tra’s an­nual bud­get of Rs 1.25 lakh crore. Sources in the state govern­ment say Fad­navis is ex­plor­ing the fea­si­bil­ity of waiv­ing the in­ter­est on loans taken by the re­main­ing farm­ers.

MP chief min­is­ter Shivraj Singh Chouhan re­fused to cave in. He req­ui­si­tioned the ser­vices of BKS’s in­cum­bent chief, Shivkant Dixit, to of­fer partial cash pay­ment for pro­duce, sup­port prices for onion, tur and moong dal, and the cre­ation of a Rs 1,000 crore agri­cul­tural price sta­bil­i­sa­tion fund if the strike was with­drawn.

While Fad­navis hopes his an­nounce­ment of a pos­si­ble loan waiver will calm farm­ers down, Chouhan ap­pears to be chart­ing a bel­liger­ent course by or­der­ing a po­lice crack­down. Nev­er­the­less, the ag­i­ta­tion con­tin­ues in both states. Ma­ha­rash­tra’s Kisan Sabha an­nounced it would ex­tend the strike to the en­tire state. In MP, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and BKMS vowed to con­tinue the strike. On June 5, farm­ers again clashed with riot po­lice in Neemuch. And in Dhar, farm­ers again threw their pro­duce on the roads.

Pho­to­graphs by RAJU SANADI

FARM FURY (Clock­wise from top) Farm­ers emp­ty­ing their milk con­tain­ers on the road in Ma­ha­rash­tra’s Au­rangabad; toma­toes be­ing thrown away in Au­rangabad; a protest in Ahmed­na­gar

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