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    Published On : Fri, Jun 9th, 2017

    How BJP’s farm loan waiver politics in UP created trouble for Fadnavis

    Nagpur/Mumbai: After facing severe water scarcity last year, Maharashtra saw a fairly good monsoon and the rains in October helped many farmers have a good season for crops after the long spell of drought in Marathwada.

    Probably that’s why this year, the months of March, April and May didn’t see many television crews doing the rounds of various districts, like they did last year.

    With no drought this year and a good crop, any government would have expected relief, but the rising number of farmer suicides has put the state in the middle of an agrarian crisis again.

    Most of the farmers are killing themselves over inability to pay off their loans. June has been the toughest, as farmers especially in western and northern Maharashtra are up in arms against the Devendra Fadnavis government, demanding complete loan waver. Adding to these woes, there is nearly one death per day.

    Since June 1, four suicides have taken place, and here are the stories behind the lives lost.

    Marginal farmer Dhanaji Jadhav was part of the farmers’ agitation and was struggling to repay his mounting loan of Rs 1 lakh. Three years ago, he had to take the loan as his crops were destroyed due to the drought in Solapur district. Finally, he hanged himself, writing to the chief minister, urging him to wave off the loans of his friends.

    Around 400 km from Solapur in Buldhana district, Pradeep Gunjal consumed poison as he couldn’t repay a loan of Rs 50,000. He had merely 2 acres of land for farming. Hanumant Shinde, who hailed from Baramati in Pune, had to face the same fate as he couldn’t repay the Rs 79,000 loan he had taken. Similarly, Ganesh Kanambale from Akola, Navnath Bhalerao and Gorakh Konkane from Nasik ended their lives in debt.

    All these men were in the marginal farmers’ category and waiting for the government to announce a loan waiver so they could have a fresh start. Many of these families had got their debts waved off a few years ago in 2006, when then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced relief due to drought in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

    However, they soon had to take loans again because either they couldn’t get a good crop or they did get a good one but couldn’t get the right price for their produce.

    This year, more than 835 farmers have committed suicide until the month of April, with March seeing the highest toll of 235. In 2016, 3,052 farmers killed themselves but ex-gratia could be paid in only 1,619 cases, nearly half.

    Looking at these figures, the opposition Congress and NCP in the state have raised demands to wave off loans of farmers. But Fadnavis is adamant against it and even got support from SBI chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya and the RBI governor – who said loan waivers disturb credit discipline.

    Fadanvis, when he was in the opposition in the state, was often part of such farmers’ protests demanding loan waivers. But as chief minister he has vehemently opposed the opposition’s demand.

    Little did he know, however, when taking a stand against the farmers, that his own party BJP will take a complete different stand in other states. In Uttar Pradesh, before the Assembly election which BJP desperately wanted to win, the party not only promised a loan waiver package for farmers but actually announced a Rs 36,000 crore package as soon as the Yogi Adityanath government came to power. Now, obviously, the BJP can’t straightaway refuse demands for loan waiver elsewhere.

    BJP’s ally Shiv Sena has also joined the opposition voice and started questioning the double standards of the party with respect to farmers in UP and elsewhere.

    Looking at the mounting crisis, Fadnavis has promised a loan waiver for small and marginal farmers after conducting a proper study of “actual needy” farmers. But the package will be distributed by October 31 and looks like too little, too late.

    It is estimated that the state government’s package will be around Rs 30,000 crore and will roughly cover 40,00,000 small and marginal farmers across the state – as per government sources this will not be more than 40 per cent of the total number of marginal farmers across Maharashtra.

    According to the rough estimate of the government, total farm loans across the state stand at Rs 1.1 lakh crore.

    These figures show why farmers are demanding a complete loan waiver, and how impossible it will be for the state government, with its debt rising to Rs 4 lakh crore and the 7th Pay Commission drying out state reserves and the GST to be rolled out.

    What BJP did in UP created problems for Fadnavis. The experience of the last loan waiver package shows that even if farmers are prepared for credit eligibility it does little to tackle farmer suicides in the state.

    By SAHIL JOSHI as published in dailyo.in

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