The Left-ruled states have the highest concentration of small and marginal farmers who could benefit from the promised loan waiver Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed as an "unpaid distress bill" his government inherited from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Statistics shared with
by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar show that 81.89 per cent population in the farm sector falls in the small and marginal category whose loans will be waived by June 30. By that deadline, the government will pay Rs 40,317 crore to lending institutions such as banks and cooperatives.
The remaining amount will be reimbursed over the next three years — Rs 8,817.96 crore (2008-09), Rs 8,817.96 crore (2009-2010) and Rs 2,361.98 crore (2010-2011).
These installments will be against outstanding loan repayments that were rescheduled in the first years of the UPA rule, explained Pawar, whose Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has been the fastest off the block to claim credit for the largesse. The NCP's home base of Maharashtra has 74.42 per cent farmers in the small and marginal bracket.
"We have made arrangements for the Rs 40,317 crore to be paid by end-June," claimed Pawar without disclosing details.
In his reply on Wednesday to the debate in Parliament on the Motion of Thanks on the President's speech, the PM talked of enhanced revenue receipts while addressing the Opposition's doubts over his regime's ability to mobilise funds for the loan waiver.
Pawar said medium farmers with holdings above two hectare constitute 17.10 per cent and the big farmers 1.01 per cent of the total count. Those in the marginal (one hectare or less) and small (1-2 hectare) category number the maximum in Kerala (98.57 per cent), Tripura (96 per cent) and West Bengal (95.30 per cent) where the Left has a strong base.
Other states with high concentration of farmers with marginal and small land holdings include the NDA-ruled Bihar (93.42 per cent) and Congress-governed Jammu and Kashmir (93 per cent), Goa (92 per cent) and Andhra (82.73 per cent). The corresponding percentages for poll bound, BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are 75.67 per cent, 65.06 per cent and 52.19 per cent respectively.
CPM's central committee member Nilotpal Basu attributed the high number of small and marginal farmers in the Left's bastions to vigorous land reforms. Claiming increased productivity due to the change in land ownership pattern in West Bengal, he wasn't sure about the waiver scheme's quantum impact in the state with 3.7 per cent agriculture growth. This was particularly so as there haven't been any reports of distress deaths in Bengal unlike Maharashtra and Andhra.
As for Kerala, the suicides in Wynad district were caused by the cash-crop experiment, said Basu. He maintained the Debt Relief Commission subsequently set up by the ruling Left Democratic Front has checked the trend.