Maharashtra farmers call off stir after state announces loan waiver

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government on Sunday announced a loan waiver for farmers and decided to form a committee to decide the criteria of debt relief, after which cultivators called off their protests.

The decision was taken during a marathon meeting held in Mumbai between a panel of ministers and the farmers’ committee.

“We have agreed on the blanket loan waiver in principle and the criteria will soon be fixed. Apart from this, the loans of small and marginal farmers have been waived with immediate effect. Regarding other farmers, a committee will fix a criteria based on which further waiver will be sanctioned,” revenue minister Chandrakant Patil said.

Patil, who headed a high-powered committee set up by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, was speaking to reporters after holding discussions with farmer leaders.

A committee will be formed comprising members from the state government and farmers to decide the criteria for complete loan waiver.

It has been decided that farmers who are dependent only on farm produce will get the benefits of the waiver.

Ajit Navale, a farmer leader, said that the decision will not put an end to the protest, but added that the agitation has been postponed for now till July 25.

“The protest will intensify again if the government does not fulfil its promise of a blanket loan waiver till the monsoon session (July 24).”

“No political leader, businessman or salaried person should get the benefits of the loan waiver. Only the real farmers should be benefited,” he added.

Farmer leader and Lok Sabha member Raju Shetti, who participated in the talks, said he was happy that their demands had been met.

“Our issues have been resolved. We have decided to temporarily call off our agitation, including the dharna protests scheduled for tomorrow and day after. However, if no satisfactory decision is taken (on the criterion for loan waiver) by July 25, we will restart our stir,” Shetti said.

Another farmer leader, Raghunathdada Patil, said the minister had assured them that “all loans” of farmers will be waived.

“The atmosphere now is like Diwali celebrations. 100 per cent of our demands have been accepted,” he said.

The ministers’ group has decided to restart fresh loan disbursal to farmers from today, Raghunathdada said.

“We are calling off the road and rail roko protests scheduled for tomorrow and June 13,” independent MLA Bachu Kadu said.

“However, if the decision taken today is not implemented before July 24, the farmers will resume their agitation,” Kadu said.

The revenue minister, asked if his announcement on farmers getting new loans from today meant that the old ones would be restructured, said, “It is a simple banking question. Till the old loan is waived, one doesn’t get new loan.”

Fadnavis had on Friday announced the formation of the six-member committee to look into the various demands of farmers, including the loan waiver.

The panel also comprises senior minister Diwakar Raote of the Shiv Sena, Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, Cooperatives Minister Subhash Deshmukh and Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan.

On June 1, farmers from a village in Ahmednagar district went on strike followed by many farmers groups in other parts, who tried to suspend vegetable and milk supply to Mumbai.

Fadnavis had held a late night meeting and ensured withdrawal of the strike, but it emerged that some of the farmers’ leaders who were part of the talks with him in Mumbai, were close to BJP and RSS. This outraged the farmers and their agitation intensified in the following days.
Last week, a farmer in Solapur district, before ending his life due to debt, wrote that unless the chief minister visits his farm, his body should not be cremated.

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