RAISING THE LIMIT
'New loan waiver scheme not good enough'
Prafulla Marpakwar I TNN
Mumbai: Even as chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on Friday welcomed finance minister P Chidambaram's amended loan waiver scheme, farmers' leader Kishore Tiwari said that with the meagre financial assistance, the Centre would not be able to tackle the agrarian crisis in the backward Vidarbha region.
On Friday, the Union cabinet removed the ceiling on land holding for farmers and provided a debt relief of 25% of the outstanding loan or Rs 20,000 whichever is higher.
"We are awaiting written instructions from the Centre on the new loan waiver scheme. Once we get the same, we will be able to analyse the situation. Prima facie it appears that the amended scheme will certainly help tackle the agrarian crisis,'' Deshmukh told TOI on Friday.
Soon after the Centre had declared the loan waiver scheme for farmers holding land up to 5 acres, Deshmukh had taken up the matter with Chidambaram saying that five acres of irrigated land may be equated with 15 acres of non-irrigated land or without changing the holding criteria, a monetary limit of Rs 50,000 for waiver of agricultural loan of all dry land farmers irrespective of land holding may be prescribed. Deshmukh had said that if such a decision was taken, it would benefit at least 90% of the farmers having nonirrigated agricultural holdings.
However, Tiwari said the Centre should have accepted Deshmukh's plea in toto. "We are not happy with the decision. There should have been a complete loan waiver for farmers with up to 15 acres of land,'' Tiwari said.
Tiwari, who had taken up the issue of farmers' suicides in six districts(I��(BAmravati, Wardha, Akola, Washim, Buldhana and Yeotmal(I��(Bof the backward Vidarbha region, said the farmers in the region had absolutely no money and even if the Centre was waiving 25% of the outstanding loan amount, the farmer was not in a position to repay the remaining amount. "Our demand was of a complete loan waiver, which has not been accepted by the Centre,'' Tiwari said.
A senior Congress minister said that following the large number of suicides, PM Manmohan Singh visited the affected areas and asked his government to formulate a loan waiver scheme. "It was therefore expected that the Centre would draft the scheme keeping in mind the six districts of the Vidarbha region. However, when the scheme was presented before the Cabinet on Friday, there was nothing special for the Vidarbha region,'' the minister said.
He added that even after the amendment of the scheme, out of 12 lakh farmers in distress in the six districts, less than five lakh farmers would be benefited. The total outstanding loan against the 12 lakh farmers is Rs 1333.42 crore.
Meanwhile, a senior government official said it would take at least 15 days to work out the action plan for implementing the loan waiver scheme. "Earlier, the instructions were for loan waiver for farmers with up to five acres of land. Now the ceiling has been removed. In view of the revised instructions, the cooperative and nationalised banks will have to give the state government the status of outstanding loans against the farmers,'' the official said.