As the political parties push for total farm loan waiver in Maharashtra, the government’s own figures paint a dismal picture about the effect of money spent on relief for farmers. In the last 10 years, Rs33,627 crore has been spent in the state on various loan waivers and relief packages, but the number of suicides by farmers during the same period was 17,861. If you count the money spent in the name of farmers since 2002, the amount goes up to Rs51,000 crore. The number of farmer suicides since then add up to 23,864.
There was a loan waiver, too, much like the one being demanded by the Shiv Sena and the Opposition Congress and NCP now. In 2008-09, the Congress-NCP government waived off loans worth Rs8,898 crore. According to official records, however, this did not help reduce farmer suicides. The average annual suicide rate remained more than 1,500 for the next eight years. In the past two years alone, 6,281 farmers have committed suicide.
And while the legislature remains stalled over the issue of a loan waiver, agricultural activists are not in favour of it.
“A loan waiver is not a long-term measure. The farmer should be brought to a position where he can pay off the loan on his own. After the loan waiver of Rs8,898 crore in 2008-09, farmers were indebted for the next two years because of consecutive droughts,” said Vijay Jawandhia, farm activist. “About 40% of the farmers in the state are not able to get loans as the 7/12 extracts[a record of the plot of land] do not have their names on them owing to various reasons. The farmers are in distress because the fruits of the liberal economy were reaped by urban areas in the past 25 years. The pay commissions have raised the minimum pay of a government employee to Rs18,000 from Rs2,500 in the past 20 years, but farmers’ income saw no change,” he said.
The state government has begun the process of drawing up an estimate of the burden on the state exchequer in case a loan waiver is announced. “We have been distributing loans worth Rs22,000 crore a year for the past two years through various banks, including nationalised and district cooperative central banks. The annual distribution during the Congress-led government was Rs14,000 crore. The waiver will be applicable to the land holding of certain acres and a cap of the loan amount will also have to be ascertained. The amount could range between Rs20,000 and Rs25,000 crore,” said an official from the cooperation department.
After the central government announced a loan waiver of Rs70,000 crore in the country in 2008-09, about 38 lakh farmers in the state got the benefit of Rs7,871 crore. The state government added Rs1,027 crore more to cover the remaining 6.72 lakh farmers ahead of the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.