MUMBAI: The steering committee comprising farmer leaders from across Maharashtra announced the end of their agitation, albeit temporary, after they got several assurances, including an immediate and blanket loan waiver, during a three-hour-long meeting with the high-powered Group of Ministers (GoM) at the Sahyadri state guesthouse here on Sunday.
However, it is unlikely that the whole of Rs 31,000 crore loan amount would be waived off, though Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said that the waiver would be “historic”. “After discussions with farmer leaders in the steering committee, I spoke to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. I’m happy to announce that the government has agreed to almost all demands and hence they have decided not to go ahead with their agitation now,” head of the GoM and revenue minister Chandrakant Patil said at a packed press conference.
“The government has principally agreed to their demand of blanket and immediate loan waiver. Accordingly, small and marginalised farmers would start getting loans from tomorrow and a committee would be appointed to decide the criteria for loan waiver of other farmers. The committee would also have farmer leaders as members on it,” the minister said. Fadnavis had on June 2 announced that the loan waiver for small and marginalised farmers will be implemented on October 31.
However, today the government agreed on an immediate waiver. This is a victory for the farmers, the leader of the steering committee said. On the demand of withdrawing cases against the farmers, the minister said the cases except those involving charges of theft and damage would be withdrawn.
When asked about the implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, another major demand of the farmers, Chandrakant Patil said the issue comes under the purview of the Central government and that the CM would lead a delegation of farmers on this issue to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We had very positive talks with the GoM and most of our demands have been met. Hence, we have decided not to go ahead with our agitation of road and rail blockade as announced earlier,” said farmer leader Raghunath Patil.
MP and leader of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana Raju Shetti said the deadline for the decision on complete loan waiver was agreed to be July 25. “However, all farmer leaders too are not in favour of a blanket loan waiver and hence the criteria would be fixed for that. We shall ensure that taxpayer’s money won’t be used to waive off loans of big farmers,” he said. “If the government goes back on its word, the agitation after July 25 would be bigger and more intense,” he said adding that the biggest success of the agitation is that it brought together farmers from across the State.
“This is a temporary victory. The real remedy for farmers’ woes would come only when we devise some sustainable system to ensure that they get more rates for the farm produce than their production cost. Recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee are important from that angle and we shall strive to end farmers’ dependence on the government,” he added later.
Agricultural economist Giridhar Patil who had boycotted the steering committee meeting on Saturday, said there is nothing new in the assurances given by the government on Sunday and the agitation needs to go ahead for economic independence of the farmers. “There is nothing new. All that was said today was almost the same as what the chief minister had said on June 2,” Giridhar Patil pointed out.