MUMBAI: While it does the math for the farm loan waiver it announced Sunday, the Maharashtra government has decided to give an interim assistance of Rs 10,000 to cultivators to enable them to buy pre-sowing inputs.
The finer details of the waiver are likely to take a week to be worked out by a special committee appointed for the purpose. The banks have not yet been given the complete data on farm loans though a presentation on it was made to the cabinet on Tuesday.
The state’s minister for cooperative societies Subhash Deshmukh said the interim assistance of Rs 10,000 rendered now will be adjusted by banks later.
The minister told New Indian Express that the decision was taken now because the rains have already arrived in Maharashtra and farmers would need to buy inputs. As banks don’t lend anew while the fate of old loans is yet to be decided, the government decided to bail out farmers with this bridge payment to buy seeds, pesticides, etc.
The loan waiver, if given to all farm borrowers, would cost the government a whopping Rs 31,000 crore. But it’s very likely that terms would be written into the final draft, to constrict the beneficiary number to a manageable level. When he made his announcement on June 3, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis did say that the waiver would go out only to small and marginalised farmers. But due to subsequent political advice the landholding criterion was done away with.
Since the final package is still likely to be a fraught political issue, the Fadnavis government is trying to bring the opposition on board. Revenue minister Chandrakant Patil said the government is trying to evolve a “consensus among political parties of the state”.
"I met Sharad Pawar and Ashok Chavan last night (Monday). I shall also be meeting Uddhav Thackeray tomorrow (Wednesday),” Patil said.
While the landholding criteria has ostensibly been done away with, there has been a lot of loud thinking by ministers in the government suggesting that there will be a cap on maximum landholding to be eligible for the waiver.
To prepare the ground, the government won over farmer leaders to the idea of applying some filters to keep out rich farmers from accessing the benefit. These filters may exclude farmers who have salaried jobs, pay income tax, own four wheelers, etc.
Towards that end, the government seems already to have begun preparing the atmospherics. On Tuesday, an MLA of the BJP's ally Rashtriya Samaj Paksha piped up and declared that he wouldn’t avail the loan waiver. Rahul Kul, who represents Daund constituency in Pune district, has written a letter to the revenue minister, requesting to be excluded from the waiver.
"I am a farmer and have been periodically repaying the instalments of money borrowed by me. I will continue to do so in future as well. I thus request you to exempt me from the
loan waiver scheme," Kul stated.
He told reporters that he had borrowed a loan of Rs 20 lakh for his farm.