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Rich farmers are likely to be excluded from the loan waiver announced by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led (BJP-led) government in Maharashtra, according to a senior minister. The government will be setting up up a high-level committee for the implementation of the scheme, announced on Sunday in the backdrop of the agitation by farmers across the state. The farmers called off their stir after the government came out with the loan waiver. The panel will decide on the criteria of debt relief. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had earlier said the conditions and details of the scheme would be finalised by the committee. State Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil on Monday said the committee is going to be formed because in the previous loan waiver package (2007-08), many rich farmers had benefited. "We have found that the loan waiver scheme introduced previously had benefited the rich farmers largely in Maharashtra. To avoid it, we will set up a high-level committee to omit such rich farmers from the list of beneficiaries.
The mechanism for the same will be worked out with the help of the committee," he said.Patil said this issue was raised at the meeting with farmers' leaders yesterday and they also demanded that the needy farmers should get the benefits first and the government had agreed to this demand. Hence the committee is going to be set up to exclude the rich farmers from the ambit of the scheme, he said. The state's high-power group of ministers and the steering committee of farmers held a meeting yesterday in Mumbai where the issue of loan waiver was discussed and accepted by the government. "It is the victory of farmers' rights that they would get loan waiver at the right time. The state government is also keen on increasing the purchase price of milk by co-operative societies from farmers. It will benefit the milk producing farmers and their income would go up," Patil said. Meanwhile, Raju Shetti, Lok Sabha member and leader of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana which is an ally of the BJP, said the steering committee had demanded implementation of the loan waiver scheme before the commencement of the Monsoon Session of the state legislature. "If the government fails to do so, we will again call for an agitation," Shetty, whose outfit recently hit the streets, said. Shetti had earlier said if the government failed to fulfil its commitments, his organisation would resume the agitation from July 25. Fadnavis had on Friday announced the formation of the six-member committee to look into the various demands of farmers, including the loan waiver. On June 1, farmers from a village in Ahmednagar district went on strike followed by many groups of cultivators in other parts of the state suspended vegetable and milk supply to Mumbai.