For freedom from debt, farmers in Maharashtra to resume their protests on I-Day eve

Their demand: a blanket loan waiver and the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report for better prices for their produce

mumbai Updated: Aug 13, 2017 01:25 IST
Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times
Farmer protests,Farmer debt,Farmer suicide

Two months after a massive protest by the state’s farmers saw markets go empty and forced the government to announce a loan waiver, the farmers have decided to intensify their agitation against the BJP-led state government.

Their demand: a blanket loan waiver and the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report for better prices for their produce. The steering committee, an apex body of farmers’ outfits, said they will take to the streets on August 14, block all major roads and not allow ministers to hoist the tricolour.

The call for protest comes as the farmers are unhappy with the conditions of the state’s loan waiver plan, which they say make a significant number of farmers ineligible for the waiver.

“The agitation will start on August 14 by blocking all national and state highways. We have appealed to farmers to be a part of the protest,” said Ajit Nawale, coordinator of the steering committee.

Nawale added, “On August 15, we will not allow ministers to hoist national flag as we believe they are responsible for the suicides of farmers in the state.”

Raghunath Dada Patil, a veteran farmer leader, said none of the ministers had the right to hoist the tricolour as they had cheated farmers.

“Those who were claiming to give better prices for agriculture produce after coming to power have done nothing for the agrarian community. If ministers come for a flag-hoisting, we will stop them. Anyone else will be allowed to do the honours,” Patil said.

READ: After loans, Maharashtra farmers now want state to waive ₹22,000 crore electricity dues

A farm crisis in Maharashtra for the past few years has left farmers drowning in debt and committing suicide across the state.

The community was not happy with the state government’s Rs34,000-crore farm loan waiver scheme — rejecting it saying it was “incomplete”.

The farmers’ outfits are unhappy with the state’s cut-off date of June 30, 2016 for the waiver, as it would make those who took loans after the deadline ineligible for a waiver.

They want the government to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission that suggested 50% minimum support price (MSP) for crops over and above the input cost.

Earlier, the farmers began a 14-day awareness campaign. They have now decided to intensify the agitation.

Dada Patil also opposed the state government’s decision asking farmers to apply online to get the benefits of loan waiver.

“At a time when the Mumbai University has failed to complete its online assessment of answer papers, the state wants farmers to apply online to get their waiver benefits,” he said, taking a jibe at the government.

In June, in what the state called a historic step, chief minister announced the Rs34,000-crore waiver that would help 89 lakh farmers in debt across the state.

The government set a cap of Rs1.5 lakh a farmer — which means the loans of around 40 lakh farmers would be completely written off.

Of all farmers in debt, six lakh can avail of the scheme for a one-time settlement of up to Rs1.5 lakh. The government also announced a special package for regular loan-payers by giving them a bonus of Rs25,000 or 25% of the loan paid — whichever is higher.

Following opposition, the state government recently extended the scope of the waiver package.

Earlier, the eligibility period was April 2012-June 2016 and this was changed to April 2009-June 2016.

First Published: Aug 13, 2017 01:25 IST