Shivaji Bhegde, 40, doesn’t need to stand in queue along with other farmers in front of the District Cooperative Bank in Talegaon, 50 km from Pune — wanting to know if their loans are part of the government’s Rs 60,000-crore waiver.
Bhegde has broken the stereotype. In 2000, he moved on from his half-an-acre paddy field to a 10-acre polyhouse that grows six different types of roses for export to Holland and Japan. Another two-acre plot grows parsley, rosemary, iceberg lettuce and pepper to be supplied to Mumbai’s Grand Hyatt and the chain of new Star malls coming up in the city. His annual turnover today is more than Rs 3 crore.
“When the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation declared our area a floriculture zone, I thought we could gain from it,” he says. After being refused by 10 banks, he got a loan of Rs 10 lakh from a nationalised bank. “Today, I have a loan of more than Rs 1 crore and am repaying about Rs 20 lakh every year.”
Bhegde’s friend Balasaheb Raskar also owns a polyhouse. Along with four others, Raskar started a marketing agency in 2003 for Maval farmers. “More than loan waivers, farmers need quality inputs — better infrastructure, good, long-term schemes, knowledge of hi-tech farming, good market rates, etc.”