FARM LOAN WAIVER
Pawar's remark shocks Vidarbha farm activists
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
Nagpur: Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar's statement that the Centre cannot take additional responsibility for fresh farm loan waiver package until the Rs 60,000 crore package announced earlier in the general budget was implemented, has come as a shock for farmers and agriculture activists in Vidarbha.
Reacting sharply to Pawar's statement in Parliament on Monday, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishore Tiwari said the decision was unfortunate. "Pawar's statement will trigger a fresh spate of suicides in Vidarbha where farmers are acutely distressed and have not benefited from the earlier announced loan waiver because of the twohectare ceiling," said Tiwari.
Finance minister P Chidambaram had announced waiver of Rs 50,000 crore-worth of loans granted to small and marginal farmers and a one time settlement scheme of Rs 10,000 crore for other farmers. Chidambaram had said that the scheme would be implemented by June 30 this year.
"The loan waiver scheme has failed to cover more than 5 per cent debt-trapped distressed farmers in Vidarbha region. That is the reason it has failed to stop the ongoing farm suicides. Over 30,000 cotton farmers have committed suicide since 1997," Tiwari said in a statement issued to media on Monday.
By rejecting the demand made by Rahul Gandhi to relax the two-hectare ceiling and cut-off date in order to cover Vidarbha farmers, Pawar has also made it clear that the UPA government has no specific scheme to cover loans taken by farmers from moneylenders or to deal with distressed dryland farmers with larger land holdings, Tiwari claimed.
VJAS has urged UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to intervene in the matter as issue of providing credit and cost cover to dying cotton farmers was vital. Tiwari reminded that during his recent visit Pawar had mentioned that the RBI and the finance ministry were working on a fresh loan waiver package which would be based on a certain quantum of loan specially in rain-fed areas like Vidarbha. Although Pawar had said the new package may take some more time to be finalised and could be taken up only after the waiver of Rs 60,000 crore was implemented, statement in Parliament on Monday did not even mention this aspect.
Tiwari has also said that looking to the high costs of farm inputs and cultivation costs, a price stabilisation fund is the need of the hour. VJAS has been demanding inclusion of Vidarbha in National Food Security Mission and special outlay of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana along with a comprehensive policy for land rights to landless, marginal farmers and tribals cultivating barren land.
He also stressed the need to allocate dedicated funds for farm ponds, community tanks and incentives to farmers harnessing rainwater. Tiwari has reiterated that special measures to arrange food security, health security and employment opportunities are needed to to address the unending problem of farmers suicide in western Vidarbha.