Rajasthan announces Rs 20,000 crore farm loan waiver, farmers protest ends
The Rajasthan government announced a Rs 20,000 crore farm-loan waiver on Thursday morning after a two-week-long protest that saw thousands of farmers pouring in from across the state to narrate stories of agricultural distress.
The announcement – which waived loans of up to Rs 50,000 -- came after a marathon meeting lasting 11 hours. The government will constitute a high-level team that will study the loan waiver process applied in other states - Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab.
Agriculture minister Prabhulal Saini made the announcement at a press conference past midnight. “We have agreed to waive loans for farmers up to Rs50,000. A high level team of specialists will talk to stakeholders in other states and chart out the process of loan waiver and its impact in Rajasthan.”
With the announcement, the farmers withdrew their protest and ended their sit in that had been going on in Sikar, causing inconvenience to people and huge jams on roads and highways. Farmers from adjoining districts too had joined in the protest. As the stir intensified, the government had called the farmer leaders for talks on Tuesday.
Ministers Prabhulal Saini, Ajay Kilak, Pushpendra Singh and Rampratap along with state BJP President Ashok Parnami held parleys with an 11 member farmers’ delegation including former CPI(M) MLAs Amraram and Pemaram and leaders Harphool Singh, Gursharan Singh, Sheopat Ram, Narayan Dudui, Lalchand Bhadu and Chagganlal.
The talks were deadlocked over the issue of loan waiver. The farmers were demanding waiver of all loans amounting to Rs49,500 crore but the government was adamant that as per records, the loans amounted to Rs19,700 crore. After three rounds of talks through the day, the two sides finally reached an agreement.
Amraram expressed satisfaction at the agreement. “We regret the inconvenience caused to people due to the stir and asked farmers to end the sit in,” he said.
The government also agreed to other demands of farmers including purchase of crops at minimum support price (MSP), increasing farmers’ pension from Rs 500 to Rs 5,000, removing the ban on the sale of cattle imposed by the state government and implementation of the Swaminathan commission recommendations.