NEW DELHI: The big move by the Uttar Pradesh government to waive farm loans appears to have opened a Pandora’s Box with farmers’ agitations in BJP-ruled Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh turning violent. Even while there is a rising clamour for a UP-like waiver in other states, as sought by NCP chief Sharad Pawar during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, the Centre remained firm that it has to be a State government call and the Union won’t foot the bill.
Besides the demand for loan waiver, the farmers are also apparently anguished that they could not get the minimum support price (MSP) for a host of crops. The Centre had gone aggressive in hiking the MSP for pulses in the last two crop seasons. The farmers, taking a cue from the hiked MSP, sowed pulses on a large scale, which led to 22 million tonnes of production in 2016-17, against the average 17 million tonnes in the recent past.
“It’s true that the farmers had to sell pulses to traders at a price much below the MSP as the states have not yet created enough procurement centres and storage capacity. Since pulses need to be protected against moisture, which can result in fungal infection, the creation of scientific storage capacity is a big concern, which is depriving the farmers the price that they should genuinely get,” said a senior official of the Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs.
Incidentally, vegetable prices had crashed after demonetisation, while the subdued price trend continues. “The Centre has been pursuing the State governments for reforms in the Agriculture Produce Market Committee to unveil a single market for farmers, besides integration with e-National Agricultural Market. It’s progressing at snail’s pace. It has to be understood that there is no short cut to end the woes of the farmers. Agriculture has not seen reforms, which are needed to help the farmers increase their incomes,” said a senior NITI Aayog official.
Incidentally, Pawar in his meeting with the Prime Minister reportedly pressed for a UP like farm loan waiver in Maharashtra. The Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has constituted a team headed by the NITI Aayog Advisor Dr T Haque to look into the ways to waive the farm loan, besides suggesting the roadmap for revival of farm economy in the state.