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Maharashtra: Prithviraj Chavan for Rs 3-lakh-cr farm bailout package

Chavan also demanded a CBI enquiry into allegations of irregularities in rate contracts okayed by the state’s ministers for purchase of various items.

Prithviraj Chavan,  farm loan waiver, farmer loan waiver, Devendra Fadnavis government, Devendra Fadnavis,  government,Maharashtra farmers, Maharashtra news, mumbai news Prithviraj Chavan

Attacking the Devendra Fadnavis-led state government for the state’s ballooning farm crisis, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday demanded a Rs 3 lakh crore farm loan waiver from the Centre.

He said the loan waiver for distressed farmers should be on the scale of the UPA’s bailout package of 2008, at today’s prices. “The Centre must give a Rs 3 lakh crore farm loan waiver,” Chavan said. “This should be backed up with an additional Rs 15,000 crore package from the state. We demand a total farm loan waiver.”

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In 2008, then prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh launched the UPA’s Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme (ADWDRS) first in Vidarbha and districts of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala that saw the maximum farmers’ suicides. Announced in the Union Budget 2008-09, the cost to the exchequer was about Rs 71,600 crore. The government was widely criticised for that loan waiver, especially for adding to the burden of state run banks and for encouraging  what bankers and economists called a perverse credit culture. The move however, yielded good political dividends for the Congress-led UPA, which came back to power in the elections which followed in mid-2008.

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With the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly set to convene for the monsoon session later this month, the Congress party is banking upon the issue of discontent in the farm sector to make its presence felt. MPCC president Ashok Chavan had last week announced agitations demanding a total farm loan waiver.

“Farmer suicides that were on the decline during the UPA regime have now risen sharply. The Marathwada region, where farm suicides were not a trend previously, has witnessed an alarming number of such incidents,” Chavan said.

He added  that drought-prone Marathwada’s farmers, having seen promising rains in June, now face the prospect of the additional cost of a second sowing after a two-week dry spell.

The MLA from Karad also launched a stinging attack on the Union government for its failure to arrest the slide in prices of farm commodities. Speaking at length about the crisis in the sugarcane sector, Chavan said the UPA had launched a Rs 6,600 crore loan for the sugarcane sector in January 2014, to be repaid in five years after a two-year moratorium. “The first repayments of those loans will be in March 2016,” he said, seeking a waiver of these too.

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These interest-free loans were extended by banks to sugar mills as additional working capital specifically for clearance of cane price arrears of previous seasons and timely settlement of cane price to farmers for that year’s sugar season.

Stating that not a single Maharashtra factory could give farmers the FRP this season, Chavan said the Central government had not taken policy measures to control prices. “Making a demand for this loan repayment now would be salt on the wounds of these mills,” he said. Maharashtra’s share in the sugarcane loan package was about Rs 2,154 crore.

Chavan also demanded a CBI enquiry into allegations of irregularities in rate contracts okayed by the state’s ministers for purchase of various items.

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He also took credit for schemes such as the Jalyukt Shivar Yojana, saying the water conservation programme had actually been launched by him as Jalyukt Gram. “But I admit that this government has marketed programmes much better than we did.”

First published on: 08-07-2015 at 04:21:01 am
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