[Maharashtra is facing one of the most severe droughts since 1972, with the state government declaring drought in 180 tehsils out of 350. Entire Marathwada (spread across Southern and Eastern Maharashtra) region is in dire condition now.This is Part 7 of the series of ground reports by NewsClick]
On June 24, 2017, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced the biggest farm loan waiver in India’s history, totalling Rs 34,044 crore. It was named as the ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana’. He claimed that the state’s almost all farmers with land holdings under 5 acres will be covered under the scheme. As per the scheme, the farmers with loans of up to Rs. 1.5 lakh were to get their loans waived off. It was the second loan waiver to be announced after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had announced a farmer loan waiver within few weeks of taking oath as the CM.
CM Fadnavis was forced by the historical farmers’ strike as well as the UP CM’s announcement to go for a similar scheme in Maharashtra.
It has been almost two years now. However, the implementation of the scheme on the ground has been full of loopholes.
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Vinod Bhaurao Jagdale owns three acres of land in Hivra village of Bhoom tehsil in Osmanabad district. He is under a collective debt of Rs. 60,000 from the State Bank of India and District Cooperative Bank. He had applied for the loan waiver scheme but hasn’t received any amount till now.
Farmers at Sawangira village of Nilanga
Sandipan Shankarrao Kawale of Mugav village in Nilanga tehsil owns five acres has an SBI loan amounting to Rs. 65,000. But he too didn’t receive the benefits of the scheme.
Pandit Tukaram Jadhav of Sawangira village in Nilanga has a debt of Rs. 50,000. But he is also amongst those thousands of farmers whose loans haven’t been waived off till now.
According to the latest report of the state government, the loan waiver scheme has cleared loans amounting to Rs 17,000 crore till now. “We will not stop the scheme until the last farmer gets the benefits,” said CM Fadnavis recently. But there is a different element to the story that the Maharashtra government is refusing to look into.
The state has announced drought in 180 tehsils out of 350. This is a time when farmers won’t get returns of their investment in Kharif crops. Many of them are already under the stress of debt. And the failure to return the current loan due to drought would add to the pressure on them. In other words, the slow implementation of the loan waiver scheme is not helpful to the farmers ahead of severe drought and the pressure of the next season.
“Had this government cleared our loans by now, we would have less tensions today. We keep going to the agriculture officers at tehsil. But they ask us to wait. How much time should we wait? This is the second year of the waiver scheme,” said Govind Somvanshi of Mugav village.
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On the other hand, the Maharashtra government has come up with a number of advertisements of ‘Shetkari Kalyan’ (farmers’ welfare) that includes the benefits of the loan waiver scheme. When asked about those advertisements on television channels or newspapers, the farmers called it ‘cheating’. “The government is lying to us. It might have waived off loans of other farmers. But there are many who are still waiting,” said Nishikant Garad of Hivra village.
Almost all opposition parties and farmers’ organisations have been demanding a ‘carpet loan waiver’ for loans upto certain amounts. However, the Maharashtra government’s pace of implementing the loan waiver scheme has been slow due to the several conditions imposed by them. “The ongoing loan waiver scheme is totally inadequate. We have been demanding since the beginning that the scheme should be applicable to all the farmers irrespective of the upper limit of the loan. But this government had ignored our demand and the fiasco of implementation is before all of us,” said Dr Ajit Navale, general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha.
As part of drought coverage, Newsclick reached out to farmers of six districts out of eight. Most interesting is the comment made by almost all farmers across the region on the loan waiver scheme. They clearly said that they don’t want the loan waiver scheme if they are given adequate rates for their crops.
The major demand which has come out is that the government should implement the Swaminathan Commission in reality. If they are given good rates then they can beat all other odds.
Read More: #MahaDrought: Farmers Commit Suicide, Families Struggle to Find Way out