After Shiv Sena relaunched its attack on the state government over loan waivers, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the demand to completely waive farm loans could not be granted immediately as it will collapse the fiscal discipline. He, however, added that the government is committed to the goal and the Centre was preparing scheme to bring 31 lakh indebted farmers into the institutionalised credit system (ICS) as the state will bear their financial burden.
But the Congress-NCP Opposition continued to boycott the proceedings of the Assembly for the third consecutive day to protest the suspension of its 19 legislators.
The CM said the cost of extending the loan waiver to 31 lakh farmers is Rs 30,500 crore and if the government decided to bear it, that would mean depriving other sections of society from their social schemes. “Bearing the entire amount will result in curbing the financial expenditure on infrastructure such as roads and irrigation and schemes meant for students, minorities, economically backward sections and the physically handicapped. We do not want to put crores of other people in trouble,” he said in the state Assembly on Friday.
He added, “We have requested the Centre to prepare a plan as the state is ready to bear the financial burden to bring the indebted farmers in the ICS net. More than 1 crore farmers, out of the total 1.34 crore, pay their loans regularly, while 31 lakh have been thrown out of the ICS. The state will bear its share to help them.”
The CM also said rather than giving loan waivers, the state will focus on sustainable growth of agriculture. Due to impressive agricultural growth — 12.5% this year from the negative growth rate last year — the collective income of farmers grew by Rs 40,000 crore.
Fadnavis went on to add that since the state has already made investments in the agriculture sector for rise in potential irrigation, water security, mechanised agriculture, soil testing and launch of the technology, they will now focus on post harvest technology and market linkage for getting a better price for the farm produce.
Whiel listing problems that the state faces while making policies for the sector, he said low productivity and fake number of people dependent on farming are two major issues that need attention. “45% of the population is dependent on agriculture for employment against the fact than only 10% of the GSDP comes from the sector. Most of the unemployed youth in the rural areas are counted as dependent on farming, but that’s not true. ”
Responding to Shiv Sena’s demand to scrap the infrastructure projects to avail funds to waive the farm loan, he said the international funding agencies fund the infrastructure projects, but there was no provision of funding the loan waiver to the farmers.
The CM claimed that Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray was convinced with his stand on sustainable development and has decided to withdraw the protest.
Meanwhile, the Opposition continued to boycott house proceedings to condemn the suspension of their 19 legislators. During their meeting with the government on Friday morning, Fadnavis turned down their demand to revoke the suspension while saying that it was to withhold the dignity of the sovereign house.
The CM later, in the lower house, asked them to participate in the proceedings and said the state was ready to discuss the issues.
State to ask Guv to help clear Appropriation bill
The BJP-led Maharashtra government will approach Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao to help clear the Appropriation Bill moved to pass the ‘vote on account’ in the legislative council, where the Opposition parties — NCP and Congress — enjoy clear majority.
The Bill meant to meet the expenditures of April and May until the budget for the next fiscal year was formally passed. The state parliamentary affairs minister Girish Bapat said they will request Rao to direct the Upper House for smooth passage of the Bill, if it’s not passed on Saturday.
The Appropriation Bill, which has the provision of Rs 50,000 crore, was passed in the Assembly on Thursday. It was moved to pass the ‘vote on account’ in the Upper House but could not be cleared after the Council was adjourned due to the pandemonium created by the Opposition for demand of loan waiver along with withdrawal of suspension of 19 legislators in the legislative assembly.
However, according to Constitutional provisions, it will be cleared automatically if Council fails to pass it in 14 days after being approved by the Assembly, he added.Bapat, however, admitted that the Bill should be cleared by the Council by March 31 otherwise it will create constitutional hitch for the government. “We have written to Chairman Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar asking him to help the government clear the Bill on Saturday. Else, we will have to ask the Governor for help,” he said.