Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a crop loan and medium-term loan waiver on June 24, 2017. He said, “Loans upto Rs 1.50 lakhs from 2012 to 2016 will be waived off. 40 lakh farmers will benefit and an incentive of Rs 25,000 will be awarded for those who regularly repay their loans. 90 per cent of the total farmers will be able to avail the benefit.”
The announcement came after protests by farmers in the state. Supply of milk and vegetables to major towns like Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Nasik was completely cut-off. But the loan waiver announcement, restricting benefit to loans only upto Rs 1.50 lakhs, and a tenure from 2012 to 2016, angered the farmers. The steering committee of the 33 different organisations resolved to continue the protests and announced a state-wide Sangharsh Yatra, starting from Nasik, from the July 9, 2017.
Dr Ajit Nawale of Kisan Kranti said, “We just cannot accept it. Moreover, the government says that farmers will have to pay the amount more than Rs 1.50 lakhs under one-time settlement for loans more than Rs 2 lakhs to be eligible for the waiver.”
"Farmers who owe more than Rs 2 lakhs simply do not have the additional amount to pay. They are completely broke after demonetisation and three years of drought. Why would a farmer be in debt if he has the additional amount to pay in one stroke?” asked Nawale.
The restriction on the duration of the debt, too, was a reason for the farmers' anger. Shirish Kotwal, former MLA and a farmer himself, from Chandwad in Nasik, said, “Last year, the ministers held public meetings in Nasik asking farmers to get their debt reconstructed. They said that this will help them evade getting their name in the list of bad loans.”
Over 1 crore farmers, owing more than Rs 10,000 crore, got their loans reconstructed in 2016, by paying interest and renewing the principle amount as new loan. All those farmers will be ineligible for the loan waiver now, as the waiver is offered for a debt till 2016.
The co-operative department had issued a government resolution (GR), stating various criteria for the loan waiver eligibility. Sachin Sawant, Congress spokesperson, said, “That GR had no value. It said that the finance ministry will issue a separate GR, along with their terms and conditions, for the final waiver.” According to Sawant, it was merely an attempt to hold back the farmer protests.
He said, “After that, the chief minister again relaxed the debt tenure and said that debts from 2009 to 2016 will be eligible for the waiver. But he brought down the figure from 40 lakh farmers to 36 lakh.” The final GR, from the finance ministry, for loan waiver from 2009 to 2016, is yet to be issued. Farmers are adamant on their demand for debt waiver till June 30, 2017.
“Nationalised banks and private banks will not listen to the state government as it has no such authority. The central government and the RBI has to order them to grant the waiver and the district co-operative banks are not in a position to grant waiver in the absence of a GR from the finance ministry. Confusion, anger, anxiety continue to rise among the agrarian community in the state," said Sawant.