MUMBAI -- The Maharashtra government today 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 government has decided to waive farmers' loans. The loans of farmers with small land holdings stand waived from today itself," 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 in Mumbai today.
Fadnavis said the state government had agreed to the loan waiver for farmers, adding that conditions and details will be finalised by a joint committee. "Discussions between the government of Maharashtra and representatives of farmers have reached a consensus and farmers have called off the strike," Fadnavis said. "The government has also accepted the demand of farmers to increase the milk prices," the CM tweeted after the meeting.
He said that the milk societies will have to agree with 70:30 formula of profit sharing on the lines of sugar industry. The move is expected to benefit 1.07 crore farmers in the state, who have land holdings of less than five acres, a farmer leader said. He said the loans of such small and medium farmers, worth Rs 30,000 crore, have been waived.
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."
On being asked if his announcement on farmers getting new loans from today meant that the old ones would be restructured the revenue minister said, "It is a simple banking question. Till the old loan is waived, one doesn't get new loan."
On Friday, Fadnavis had 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.