Monday, July 6, 2009

Publication: Times of India Mumbai; Date: Jul 7, 2009; Section: For Mumbai; Page: 17

UPA pill for distressed farmers

Prafulla Marpakwar I TNN

Mumbai: The UPA government’s decision to set up a special task force to control the menace of private moneylenders, extend the deadline for the one-time-settlement (OTS) of loans and grant the fertiliser subsidy directly to farmers should go a long way towards resolving the agrarian crisis in the Vidarbha region.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday said that the government will set up a task force exclusively for Maharashtra to draft an action plan to curb the menace of private moneylenders. If veteran farmer leader Kishore Tiwari is to be believed, then more than 20 lakh farmers in the suicide-prone Vidarbha region are victims of private moneylenders. “It is for the first time that the Centre has felt the need to control the menace,’’ Tiwari said.

Even though the Centre has waived loans, farmers are still facing a crisis due to private moneylenders. “We have a law to prohibit private moneylending, but the

law was never implemented in letter and spirit,’’ Tiwari said.

A senior agriculture department official said that, with the task force, the government would be able to ascertain the influence exerted by private moneylenders. “We have information that while granting loans to farmers in distress, most moneylenders transfer the farmers’ properties to their own names. As a result, even after repaying their loans, the farmers become landless,’’ the official said. “In our opinion, the state did not make serious efforts to take them on,’’ the official added.

On the extension of the OTS, he said that when the Centre declared the loanwaiver scheme, the farmers were told to clear outstanding dues before June 30, 2009 so that they could be eligible for fresh loans. The Centre had waived Rs 25,000 from every loan. “The farmer was expected to clear the remaining amount before June 30 to be eligible for fresh loans. Now that the Centre has extended the deadline by six months, it will help the farmers in distress,’’ the official said.

On the fertiliser subsidy, he added that so far the subsidy was paid to the farmer through the dealer. Now, the agrarian community will benefit directly.

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