Loan waiver will not prevent suicides: Kashikar

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Nagpur, Feb 29 (UNI) The loan waiver for small and marginal farmers, announced by Union Minister for Finance P Chidambaram, would benefit cultivators in Vidarbha, but would not prevent suicides and only defer their distress, Shetkari Sanghatana leader Saroj Kashikar said today.

The decision to waive loans for farmers holding up to five acres of land was a welcome move, but it would not resolve the agrarian crisis in Vidarbha, Ms Kashikar told UNI.

''It is a loan waiver, not freedom from loan. We have been demanding freedom from loan for farmers,'' she said.

The farmers, who benefited from the waiver, would now get fresh loans, but in the absence of any measures to improve their financial condition, they will walk down the suicide path again, Ms Kashikar said.

''The move will only defer their deaths,'' she said adding that the farmers, who had been repaying their loans by arranging funds from some source of the other, did not stand to benefit.

The real benefit of the loan waiver would accrue to financial institutions like banks and cooperative credit societies, she said, and described the one-time settlement (OTS) scheme announced by the finance minister as 'old wine in new bottle.' ''Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil recently admitted that there is corruption in the implementation of the relief packages for the distressed farmers in Vidarbha. The Shetkari Sanghatana had suggested long ago to implement measures that will provide direct benefit to the farmers. Freedom from loan is one such step. The funds of various government schemes for farmers do not reach the intended beneficiaries,'' Ms Kashikar said.

Meanwhile, former MP Banwarilal Purohit has described the debt waiver decision as 'illusory'. The move would only end up benefiting banks, which would get reimbursements against the outstanding amounts, Mr Purohit said in a statement here today.

Other farmers, who were suffering equally, had been left out in the cold and the basic problems of farm indebtedness had not been addressed, he said. The budget was disappointing for Vidarbha, which was suffering from farmers' indebtedness, he added.

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