Pawar seeks State protection to farmers from illegal moneylenders

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Mumbai, Mar 1 (UNI) Stating that the loan waiver of Rs 60,000 crore was a conscious decision of the UPA government to enable 40 per cent of the farming community in the country to return to farming, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today urged the States to protect hapless small and marginal farmers terrorised by illegal moneylenders.

''I appeal to all the State Governments and political parties, who want to protect farmers' interest, to come forward and protect farmers from these moneylenders, who allegedly use muscle power to fleece them,'' Mr Pawar told reporters here.

He said the Government has not taken any decision on licenced moneylenders, who had provided credit to farmers.

The decision to waive farm loans announced by Finance Minister P Chidambaram in his budget for 2008-09 would enable at least 40 per cent of the farmers, who were out of agricultural activity due to loan default, to become eligible for fresh credit and take up cultivation and add to agricultural productivity, he added.

Mr Pawar said over 81.9 per cent of the farmers belong to small and marginal category with holdings less than two hectares.

He said the loan waiver decision was a historic one since independence of the country and would help in increasing agricultural production.

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