No loan waiver like UP, but Maharashtra plans schemes to ease farmer burden
At least three government departments, including agriculture, cooperation and revenue, are working together to package various schemesmumbai Updated: Apr 17, 2017 09:01 IST
Under tremendous pressure from the Opposition to approve a loan waiver for farmers, especially after a similar announcement in Uttar Pradesh, the state government has begun to package multiple schemes to reduce the cost of production of the crops and also ensure assured price for the crops.
At least three government departments, including agriculture, cooperation and revenue, are working together to package various schemes. As the government will not be in a position to announce a waiver at least for a few months, it has swung into action to ensure the indebted farmers are not hassled in getting a loan for seeds, fertilisers and pesticides essential for sowing, which will begin in first week of June, immediately after monsoon sets in. The government is thinking of purchasing seeds and fertilisers and distribute them with the help of NGOs and social organisations.
The Opposition has been batting for a loan waiver for farmers similar to the one given in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress, NCP and four smaller parties boycotted proceedings of the Assembly’s budget session for three weeks to push the demand. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had declared that his government, too, was in favour of the waiver, but at an appropriate time. He said his government was studying the UP model of a waiver. He also said that rather than a waiver, the thrust would be on sustainable development of agriculture.
To reduce expenditure on farm labourers, the government is mulling funding them from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). “We have not been able to fully utilise the central funds allocated under NREGS, but on the other hand, the cost of farm labourers is unbearable for farmers. By funding farm labour, we can extend a great relief to the farmers helping them to reduce cost of production. Similarly, on other fronts, too, we are tapping the possibilities to extend the benefits to the farmers,” said an official from the agriculture department.
The cooperation department is planning to restructure the loans given to the farmers to enable them to get fresh loans for the kharip season. The government is also considering health, education and housing schemes in the package so that the socio-economic burden is reduced.
“It will be a package of various schemes by 3 to 4 departments to ensure farmers are heavily subsidised to bring farming to the level of affordability. Right from testing of the soil health, sufficient supply of water, power supply at subsidised rates to effective marketing of the agriculture products, we are planning to do everything that will minimise the gap between the production cost and the rate in the market,” Subhash Deshmukh, cooperation minister, told HT.
The government is also tapping the idea of bring about 22 crops in the list of produce with minimum support price. It will bear the cost of difference between the market price and the MSP, particularly for crops such as tomato, onion and grapes, whose rates have fallen this year. “Our aim is to bring cost of production to zero for about 1.07 lakh farmers who hold less than 5 acres of land. Instead of giving them money, the government will purchase the things required to cultivate and distribute with the help various organisations working in the sector,” the officer said.
According to rough estimates, the schemes will cost around Rs10,000 crore if implemented. “But the estimates are primary, and depends on the feasibility of the all schemes being tapped. The schemes could be implemented if the government wins over the demand of the loan waiver, which is expected to cost Rs30,500 crore. But it succumbed to pressure for the waiver. It will have to cut short the schemes,” another official from the cooperation department said.