Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has announced the “biggest-ever” farm loan waiver, but it failed to comepletely quell the protests as some farmers’ leaders said they were not calling off the strike that began on June 1.
The Maharashtra CM announced that the loan waiver will come into force by October 31, 2017, and will be restricted to small and marginal farmers with land holdings of five acres. He said that an estimated 40 lakh farmers are estimated to benefit from the step.
“The government will waive loans of farmers with small land-holding, and 80 per cent of such farmers in Vidarbha and Marathwada will benefit,” Fadnavis said at a press conference after late-night talks with leaders of farmers.
As some sections of protesting farmers refused to call off the agitation, Fadnavis alleged that “some people are trying to create anarchy in the state” by using farmers.
“We have agreed to most of the demands…. Some people’s agenda is set. They want to create a situation of anarchy in the state and so they do not want the strike to end,” he said, without naming the opposition Congress and NCP.
“This will be the first loan waiver to farmers in suicide-prone regions. No state in the country has given a
complete loan waiver to farmers,” Fadnavis said.
A committee will be formed to decide the details of loan waiver and it will ensure that needy farmers are not left out while wrong persons do not benefit
In a tweet, the chief minister said this was going to be the “biggest-ever” loan waiver. Fadnavis also denied that he tried to create a rift between agitating farmers. “We have agreed to their demands,” he said.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar said strike was called by farmers and not by any political party. “The strike has taken place only because the government had fallen asleep. The Chief Minister has tried to create a rift between farmers to stop the strike,” Pawar alleged.
Fadnavis said a committee will be formed to decide the details of loan waiver and it will ensure that needy farmers are not left out while wrong persons do not benefit, which happened in earlier loan waivers. The committee will have representatives of farmers too.
Another decision taken by the government is to make it a criminal offence to pay farmers less than the minimum support price (MSP) for their produce, and a law for this will be enacted during the monsoon session of legislature, he said.
The state commission for agricultural produce will be set up within a month, he said, adding that a decision on increasing minimum prices of milk will be taken by June 20, Fadnavis said.
While the chief minister agreed to grant the main demand of farmers, which was loan waiver, it emerged during the day that there was no consensus among their leaders about calling off the protest, which continued in many places, blocking supply of milk and vegetables.
Prices of vegetables and fruits kept rising in cities including Mumbai due to drastic fall in supply from production centres like Nashik and Ahmednagar.
A group of farmers from Puntambe village in Ahmednagar met Fadnavis last night and promised that the strike would be called off. “The strike is withdrawn,” Fadnavis tweeted.
But later in the day, the Kisan Kranti Morcha leader, Samjay Patil Ghatnekar, said the strike was still on. “The government tried to create a rift between farmers,” he added.
Facing flak, Jayaji Suryavanshi, who led the delegation to Fadnavis, “apologised” for calling off the stir.
“The strike was only called off temporarily. But if farmers want it to continue, I am with them,” he said.
“At least 113 farmers were held during the protests across the state since last night for resorting to violent methods like damaging public property, arson, etc, during the protest,” said Bipin Bihari, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order).