Agriculture

Maharashtra Farmers Call Off Protests As Government Announces Loan Waiver

Farmers and NCP activists throw away milk on the road outside the collector’s office during a protest over farmers’ issues in Thane, Mumbai on Saturday. Credit: PTI

Mumbai: Protesting farmers called off their agitation after the Maharashtra government on Sunday announced a loan waiver for farmers and decided to form a committee to decide the criteria of debt relief.

“The government has, in principle, decided to waive farmers’ loans with certain stipulations. The loans of farmers with small and medium land holdings stand waived from today itself,” revenue minister Chandrakant Patil said.

On June 1, farmers from a village in Ahmednagar district went on strike followed by many farmers groups in other parts, who tried to suspend vegetable and milk supply to Mumbai.

Patil, who headed a high-power committee set up by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, was speaking to reporters after holding discussions with farmer leaders here on Sunday.

Fadnavis said the state government had agreed to the loan waiver for farmers, adding that conditions and details will be finalised by a joint committee.

“Discussions between the government of Maharashtra and representatives of farmers have reached a consensus and farmers have called off the strike,” Fadnavis said.

“The government has also accepted the demand of farmers to increase milk prices,” the chief minister tweeted after the meeting.

He said that the milk societies will have to agree with 70:30 formula of profit sharing on the lines of sugar industry.

The move is expected to benefit 1.07 crore farmers in the state, who have land holdings of less than five acres, a farmer leader said. He said the loans of such small and medium farmers, worth Rs 30,000 crore, have been waived.

Meanwhile, the revenue minister said cases against those who participated in the farmers stir will be withdrawn, except in certain matters.

MP Raju Shetti, the leader of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana, said that if the government fails to fulfil its commitments, they would restart their agitation from July 25.

“Our issues have been resolved. We have decided to temporarily call off our agitation, including the dharna protests scheduled for tomorrow and day after. However, if no satisfactory decision is taken (on the criterion for loan waiver) by July 25, we will restart our stir,” Shetti said.

Shiv Sena minister Diwakar Raote said “I was a representative of the Sena in the talks. I said the Sena was with the agitators. Fadnavis, in today’s discussions, agreed in principle to the demands.”

Dhanajya Dhorade, a farmer leader from Puntamba where the stir first began, said he was happy that the agitation was successful and the demands of the farmers were met.

Another farmer leader, Raghunathdada Patil, said the minister had assured them that “all loans” of farmers will be waived.

“The atmosphere now is like a Diwali celebration. 100% of our demands have been accepted,” he said.

The ministers’ group has decided to restart fresh loan disbursals to farmers from today, Raghunathdada said.

“We are calling off the road and rail roko protests scheduled for Monday and June 13,” independent MLA Bachu Kadu said.

“However, if the decision taken today is not implemented before July 24, the farmers will resume their agitation,” he warned.

Fadnavis had on Friday announced the formation of the six-member committee to look into the various demands of farmers, including the loan waiver.

‘Victory for farmers’, says Congress
Senior Maharashtra Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil today said the state government’s decision to waive farm loans is a victory of the farmers.

Patil, who is leader of the opposition in the Maharashtra assembly, said the decision was also the result of the ‘Sangharsh Yatra’ organised by the opposition.

“The Fadnavis government will have to bear a heavy cost if it fails to implement the decision,” he said.

Meanwhile, leader of the opposition in the Maharashtra legislative council, Dhananjay Munde, has demanded that the benefits of the loan waiver be given to all farmers.

“The (monsoon) session (of the state legislature) is going to begin on July 24. If the government takes the decision of waiving the loans of all (farmers) it will be good and if not, the stir would be intensified,” Munde, a senior Nationalist Congress Party leader, told reporters in Aurangabad.