In a move to curb farmer suicides across Maharashtra, the state cabinet announced on Thursday that it will write off loans of up to Rs5 lakh per farmer, borrowed from registered money-lenders.
The decision will help more than four lakh farmers, but will cost the state around Rs300 crore.
In December last year, the state government announced waiving the loans after it found most farmer suicides were because of outstanding loans and harassment by private money lenders. But it hit a roadblock after the administration pointed out certain technical glitches – such as loans taken for weddings. The state then undertook a survey to identify farmers who had taken such loans.
The results of the survey notwithstanding, the cabinet on Thursday decided to set aside the norms and pay off the loans of most farmers.
A cabinet minister said the government was also considering lodging cases against unregistered lenders to free the farmers from their harassment.
The opposition had targeted the state government earlier in the day for not following up on the assurance, even three months after the announcement.
In another development at the budget session on Thursday, the state government said it is looking at starting a new fund that could provide relief to distressed farmers.
The announcement was made by agriculture and revenue minister Eknath Khadse in the Councli, a day after he told the Assembly the Centre and state will not be able to give funds for farmers hit by unseasonal rain.
Khadse said the government was planning a body similar to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) for the state. “Currently, Maharashtra is in a poor financial state and has not been able to provide financial aid to farmers. However, we are considering setting up a Maharashtra Disaster Response Fund (MDRF), on the lines of the NDRF,” Khadse said. During his announcement however, Khadse did a U-turn about the Centre’s refusal to provide aid: “The Centre had told us to submit a joint proposal. We are awaiting a response, but we are hopeful that we will get more aid than the Centre has ever given in the past 25 years,” he said.