Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Friday announced an agriculture loan waiver in the 2008-09 Budget but a farmers' leader in Nagpur said the move will not help most farmers in the Vidarbha region due to the two-hectare landholding cap. The region has witnessed the maximum number of suicides by debt-ridden farmers in the last few years.
"Close to 60 per cent farmers in Vidarbha have a landholding of more than two hectares and most of them are in distress on the Maharashtra government's own admission", said Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti leader Kishor Tiwari.
He said all such farmers in the region, which has witnessed a large number of suicides by debt-ridden farmers, would be deprived of the benefit.
"I welcome the largely anticipated budgetary provision nevertheless in as much as a 'head' has been created but cannot help saying that even as a relief it is inadequate for the farmers in Vidarbha," Tiwari told IANS.
Pointing out the absence of provisions for increasing farmers' income, price stabilisation and incentives for low-cost farming that would have signalled a beginning of the quest for a durable solution to the agrarian crisis, Tiwari also deplored Chidambaram's silence over food security and rural health.
The annual Budget presented by Chidambaram has a farm loan waiver provision of Rs 600 billion intended to extend the benefit to 40 million farmers across the country. The one-time settlement would cover marginal and small farmers whose loans were rescheduled last year.
Echoing Tiwari's views, farm activist Vijay Jawandhia said a loan waiver up to Rs 50,000 rather than up to two-hectare land holding would have been more appropriate.
"The two-hectare cap would mostly benefit the sugarcane and grape cultivators in western and southern Maharashtra who have smaller land holdings but large-income-yielding agriculture because of the irrigation facility available there," Jawandhia said.
Leading seed manufacturer and Ankur Seeds Corporation managing director MG Shembekar, however, welcomed the farm loan waiver provision saying it would help the cotton growers in Vidarbha.