Loan waiver a betrayal: farmer activists

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Nagpur, Feb 29 (UNI) The loan waiver for small and marginal farmers announced by Union Minister for Finance P Chidambaram in the budget today was a betrayal for the cultivators in Vidarbha, farmers activist Vijay Jawandhia said.

''A major portion of the agriculture land in Vidarbha does not have irrigation and is rain-fed. As a result, most of the farmers hold more than two hectares of land in the region. The loan waiver will, therefore, not benefit too many of them,'' Mr Jawandhia said.

Even the farmers who do benefit did not stand to gain much, as the average debt was very low as compared to other parts of the state, Mr Jawandhia said.

''The farmer in Vidarbha gets only around Rs 4,000 per acre as loan, as the land is mostly rain-fed. The highest outstanding amount will, therefore, be around Rs 20,000 per farmer. By contrast, farmers in Western Maharashtra get loans of up to Rs 30,000 per acre as the area is irrigated well, and even up to Rs one lakh per acre for horticulture, and their total outstanding will be much higher.

Their benefit will, therefore, also be higher, ''he said, adding that this was a grave injustice. About 4.64 lakh farmers in Kolhapur district and four lakhs in Nashik stood to benefit while, only about 1.5 lakhs in Yavatmal district, the worst affected by farmers suicides, stood to gain, he claimed. This was a big discrepancy in amount as well as numbers, he said.

In a region where 85 per cent of the farmland was rain-fed and the farmer was fighting with nature and market forces, the Finance Minister had not given any helping hand to him, Mr Jawandhia said.

The proposal to waive off loans for small and marginal farmer was, therefore, a big disappointment, he added.

Mr Jawandhia said that instead, the Finnce Minister should have announced loan waiver with a limit of up to Rs 50,000 or Rs 60,000. In that case, nearly 90 per cent of the farmers holding rain-fed land would have benefited, he asserted.

The Finance Minister should now bring out a white paper carrying tehsil-wise figures as to how many farmers benefited from the loan waiver, and what was the quantum of such benefit, he said and adding that the effectiveness of the measure, especially for Vidarbha, will become as clear as daylight.

Further, Mr Jawandhia said that the scenes of farmers in Vidarbha rejoicing at the loan waiver announcement did not appear to be genuine.

''The team of one private television news channel came to my village (Waifal in Wardha district) and asked me to get some farmers to dance to the beat of drums. I flatly refused. It is just not possible,'' he added.

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