Rahul suggests changes in loan waiver scheme

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New Delhi, Mar 13 (UNI) Batting for suffering farmers of the dryland areas like Vidarbha, Congress member Rahul Gandhi today urged the government to adopt a variable land ceiling based on productivity for the purpose of extending benefit of the Rs 60,000 crore farm loan waiver announced in the Budget for 2008-09.

Participating in the General Discussion on the Budget in the Lok Sabha, he suggested that the cut-off date of March 31,2007, should not be the same for the entire country and there must be a localised cut-off date to ensure that the loan waiver scheme benefitted the deserving farmers.

Referring to the land ceiling of two hectares proposed as eligibility for farm loan waiver, Mr Gandhi said "the current ceiling of two hectares for eligible farmers does not account for land productivity and excludes deserving farmers in poorly irrigated areas. I refer specifically to dryland areas like Vidarbha." Therefore, variable land ceiling should be fixed by taking into account the productivity of the land.

On the budget proposal seeking to extend the loan waiver benefit to only those who had taken loans before March 31, 2007, he said the cropping cycles were such that the bulk of loans that had been taken out had been taken after the cut off date.

"A single cut off date unfairly penalises farmers in these regions," he said, pointing out that "it would greatly help if localised cut off dates were considered so that every deserving farmer benefits from the waiver." Terming as "historic" the decision on farm loan waiver, Mr Gandhi said it would help to free 40 million poorest farmers from the bonds of indebtedness.

"This decision has corrected a grave injustice and given our small and marginal farmers the ability to look to the future with hope." Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was in her seat during her son's ten-minute long speech as the members from both the Opposition and Treasury members keenly listened to him.

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