A loan-waiver will not end the miseries of farmers in Maharashtra or put a full stop to suicides and hence the government is contemplating a multi-pronged approach where emphasis will be on dairy farming and fruit cultivation to boost their income, agriculture minister Eknath Khadse said on Friday.
"The total amount of loans that farmers owe to money lenders stands at around Rs 24,000 crore. I am not saying that waiving off this amount is not possible, but there is nobody who can say for sure that farmers will not commit suicide after their loans are waived," Khadse told PTI.
Amidst the Opposition demand to write off the debt of farmers, the BJP-led government is mulling evolving a "model" based on former CM Sharad Pawar's initiatives, where emphasis will be laid on dairy farming and fruit cultivation to curb farmer suicides in the State.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is scheduled to reply to a debate on the issue of loan waiver in the legislature on Monday.
Khadse said while waiving off the entire debt is one option before the Government, there are several others which will benefit the farmers in the long run.
"When Sharad Pawar was chief minister, he had allocated Rs 10,000 crore to waive off farmer loans. Though his intentions were good, more than half the amount was lost due to corruption on the part of co-operative banks.
"The remaining amount that reached farmers was insufficient to meet their needs. The result was that farmer suicides didn't stop and only increased in the subsequent years," Khadse maintained.
The state will now lay emphasis on dairy farming where animals like goats, cows and buffaloes would be distributed among agriculturists so as to help them earn more income.
"High quality milk can be obtained from these animals that can not only be sold in the country but could be exported in future. This will fetch good price for farmers. Strengthening of milk production units can be another option," he said.
Khadse said Pawar (as CM) promoted fruit cultivation on around 80,000 hectare of land but the previous Congress-NCP Governments neglected this field. As a result, the cultivated land under horticulture has come down to just 20,000 hectare.
"We are planning to replicate Pawar's model in this time of crisis. The Government, which is under heavy debt of Rs 3,85,000 crore, will need to raise another Rs 24,000 crore if it wants to waive the farmer loans. The State Government cannot afford that much burden," he said.