A COSTLY FACE-SAVER FOR FAD­NAVIS

India Today - - BIG STORY -

As farm­ers in Ma­ha­rash­tra went on a ram­page be­tween June 5 and 9, pour­ing milk and throw­ing veg­eta­bles on the roads, Chief Min­is­ter Deven­dra Fad­navis was putting in place plans to tackle the cri­sis. First, he held a mid­night dis­cus­sion with a group of farm­ers at his of­fi­cial res­i­dence, per­suad­ing them to with­draw the strike and then declar­ing that the farm­ers’ unions had split. Then, he de­clared the state would an­nounce the largest debt write-off by Oc­to­ber 31, cre­at­ing another rift be­tween farm­ers’ lead­ers, with in­flu­en­tial ones like Girid­har Patil and Bud­ha­ji­rao Mu­lik stay­ing away from ne­go­ti­a­tions.

On June 11, an em­pow­ered group of min­is­ters headed by rev­enue min­is­ter Chan­drakant Patil an­nounced an im­me­di­ate loan waiver to 3.1 mil­lion farm­ers with mar­ginal land hold­ings and an in-prin­ci­ple nod to a blan­ket waiver to all farm­ers com­ply­ing with cer­tain pa­ram­e­ters. “We will form a com­mit­tee of min­is­ters and farm­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives to fi­nalise the pa­ram­e­ters. The work will be fin­ished by July 25,” says Patil.

The gov­ern­ment has not yet dis­closed what these pa­ram­e­ters will be. A se­nior min­is­ter says loans up to Rs 1 lakh might be writ­ten off, as also loans of farm­ers who own up to five acres of land, or those who have no other source of in­come. “It will help poor farm­ers get loans from banks. It will also en­sure that rich farm­ers do not take ad­van­tage of the blan­ket waiver,” he says.

The move is likely to place a bur­den of Rs 30,500 crore on the state. To waive loans of all farm­ers, ir­re­spec­tive of in­come, debt re­pay­ing ca­pac­ity and land hold­ing, the state will need Rs 1.32 lakh crore, more than its Rs 1.25 lakh crore bud­get.

Fad­navis has also asked co­op­er­a­tive milk fed­er­a­tions to share 70 per cent of their prof­its with farm­ers. At present, a milk pro­duc­ing farmer from Ahmed­na­gar gets Rs 18 per litre from the milk fed­er­a­tion, which in turn sells a litre in Mumbai for Rs 56. Once the new pol­icy is im­ple­mented, the farmer will get Rs 24 per litre.

A re­lieved Fad­navis says farm­ers and their wel­fare will re­main in­te­gral to his gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy. “The loan waiver is another step to reaf­firm our com­mit­ment to the farm­ers,” he says.

Loan waivers will likely place a bur­den of Rs 30,500 crore, which the state can ill af­ford

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