Maharashtra relaxes eligibility rules for interim loans after farmers’ groups step up pressure
Mumbai city news: New government norms make 35 lakh more farmers eligible for the ₹10,000 loan to sow crops, and 65 lakh in allmumbai Updated: Jun 24, 2017 10:59 IST
After pressure from farmers’ groups and the Opposition, the BJP-led government in Maharashtra on Tuesday diluted eligibility norms for farmers to avail an interim loan of Rs10,000. This move made at least 35 lakh more farmers eligible, bringing the total number up to 65 lakh, according to Chandrakant Patil, revenue minister.
The interim loan is part of the farm-loan waiver package the government is prepare following protests by farmers.
The decision to relax norms it set last week through a government resolution (GR) was taken a day after a high-drama meeting between senior ministers and farmers’ outfits at the Sahyadri Guest House on Monday.
Farmers’ outfits demanded to scrap the GR and had also burnt its copies, criticising the government for finalising parameters without taking them into confidence.
Government employees, contractors, teachers, professors, doctors, lawyers and other professionals with an annual income of less than Rs4 lakh and even those who own a four-wheeler will now be able to claim the loan, if they are farmers. The government had initially excluded all elected representatives, including those in local bodies, families with members in government jobs, teachers, professors, people filing income tax returns and families owning a four wheeler from interim loans of Rs10,000.
The farmers strongly opposed the norms saying a large chunk of distressed farmers will be left out.
The farmers’ outfits also opposed the proposed cap of Rs1 lakh on the loan waiver once the full package is announced.
Corporators of panchayat samitis and municipal councils, office-bearers of cooperative milk, textile societies with an annual income of less than Rs4 lakh will also be eligible for a loan waiver. The government has, however, kept the original norm of excluding legislators, former legislators, corporators of municipal corporations and district councils from the benefits.
Farmers holding a shop licence with an annual turnover of less than Rs10 lakh, too, will be eligible for the waiver.
“After talking to farmers’ outfits, experts and the leaders of the opposition we decided to relax certain norms in the interest of the farmers. We did feel the earlier norms were too strict. For instance, the norm related to four-wheelers was unjust as farmers with low income own vehicles for transporting their farm produce,” said water resources minister Girish Mahajan, who is a member of the high-power group of ministers.
The minister said the norms will be similar to the final loan waiver, which will be announced by the government in a few weeks. The government also came under pressure after the announcement of a waiver by the Punjab government, which fixed Rs2 lakh as the upper cap.
With revised norms, the financial burden on the state exchequer is bound to increase. “This will also increase financial burden,” said Patil,who is also a member of the high-power group.
The farmers’ outifits, however, continued their opposition to the decision. “We have been cheated by the government as it has taken a U-turn from its earlier assurance of a complete loan waiver. We will pursue our demand of the complete loan waiver,” said Ajit Nawale, convenor of the steering committee of farmers’ outfits.