Maha waives farmers’ loans, MP to treat buying farm produce below MSP a crime
Farmers in both Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have held demonstrations demanding better prices for their crops and for crores of rupees of their debt waived off.india Updated: Jun 12, 2017 09:02 IST
The Maharashtra government said it will write off the loans of most of its 1.34 crore farmers, and Madhya Pradesh announced a crackdown against those short-changing cultivators as the two BJP-ruled states rushed on Sunday to placate growing resentment from the agriculture sector.
Farmers in both states have held protests demanding better prices for their crops and for crores of rupees of their debt waived off. Farmers unions threatened to intensify their agitation if the government did not heed to their requests by next week.
In Mumbai, a marathon meeting between farmers and a committee of senior ministers resulted in a truce after the government said it will immediately waive off loans of farmers with less than 5 acre of land. For others, they agreed on forming a panel to come up with a set of conditions for the debt write-off. The panel will include members of farmer unions, Chandrakant Patil, state revenue minister said.
In Madhya Pradesh, where five farmers were shot dead by police during a protest on June 6, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said purchasing farm produce at rates lower than the Minimum Support Price (MSP) will be treated as a crime.
Contrary to expectations from some farmer groups, he did not announce a debt write-off.
He urged farmers to make use of an existing government scheme that gives them interest-free credit to pay off bank dues.
Violent protests by farmers in Mandsaur spilled over to several other districts, including the Malwa-Nimad area and even reached the state capital.
The unrest in both states coincides with a larger resentment toward the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre.
Maharashtra’s debt write-off will cost around Rs 30,000 crore, officials said, and the committee led by Patil will draw up the specifics of the budgeting.
Financial experts have urged caution over farm loan waivers, warning that it will weaken finances of states. The warnings have come from Reserve Bank of India chief Urjit Patel and Arundhati Bhattacharya, the head of India’s largest public-sector State Bank of India.
The Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, a farmers’ union that shares its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh with the BJP, blamed the Narendra Modi government’s “irrational policies”.
“The Centre is more concerned about consumers and rising prices of food items than farmers. They are not a priority for the government,” BKS national secretary Mohini Mohan Mishra said, according to PTI.
Earlier on Saturday, the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh — a collective of 62 farmers’ unions — said farmers across the country will block national highways between 12pm and 3pm on June 16 to protest the Centre’s “anti-farmer policies”.
Opposition parties have also criticised the Union government over the rural distress.