Loan waiver not totally ruled out: Deshmukh

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Nagpur, Nov 29 (UNI) The Maharashtra government had not totally ruled out loan waiver to farmers but was waiting for the Centre to declare its national policy on the issue, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told the state Legislative Council today.

Replying to a discussion initiated by Leader of Opposition Pandurang Phundkar, Mr Deshmukh said the Centre Central government too was considering the issue of loan waiver to farmers.

The Centre has already held a meeting in this regard on November 27 and another meeting would be held on December 7, he said. If the Centre takes a positive decision, the state government would benefit by way of financial assistance. In this background, it would not be in the state government's interest to take any hasty decision, he said.

When pressed by opposition members, the Chief Minister said if the Centre decides against waiving off loans of farmers, the state government will re-think on the issue. ''We have not completely ruled out the possibility of giving loan waiver. Our file is open,'' Mr Deshmukh said.

The opposition members, however, were not satisfied by this and demanded that the chief minister announce the decision of loan waiver in the House today itself and later staged a walk-out.

Earlier, Mr Deshmukh said loan waiver cannot be a permanent solution to the problems being faced by farmers in Vidarbha.

Ensuring a good price to agricultural produce was of utmost importance, he said.

Stressing upon crop diversification, he said farmers should turn from cotton and take up sugarcane cultivation in a big way. Cotton is one of the few commodities whose price is decreasing in the international market, he said.

Mr Deshmukh said efforts are also underway to introduce a full-proof crop insurance scheme whose benefits will be available to farmers. As of now, claims under the schemes are decided on the basis of crop loss sustained in the entire taluka and not in a individual farm. He assured the House that action will be taken against co-operative banks which demand an interest payment more than twice the principal amount. The state government has made rules that no co-operative bank would be allowed to recover more than twice the amount of principal as interest on crop loans, he said.

Agriculture Minister Balasaheb Thorat said the government was making all-out efforts to increase farm productivity. Co-operation Minister Patangrao Kadam called upon legislators to strengthen the will power of farmers so that they do not even contemplate suicide.

UNI

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