Opposition parties in the Maharashtra Assembly
and in the Lok Sabha
on Thursday tried to pin down the respective Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led governments on the issue a waiver for farm loans.
While the Opposition believes the BJP
governments at the Centre and in states will fall victim to having raised people's expectations to levels that were unlikely to be fulfilled, the party leadership ended up making contrasting statements on the issue in Mumbai and in New Delhi.
In the Maharashtra Assembly, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis
indicated that loan waiver, in the absence of central help, wasn’t possible given the current state of finances of the state.
In the Lok Sabha, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said the newly elected BJP
government in Uttar Pradesh will waive loans of farmers in the state and the Centre would bear the burden. The Opposition demanded farm loans be waived for the entire country and not just Uttar Pradesh.
had committed to waive farm loans in its manifesto for the UP Assembly polls. In his campaign speeches, Prime Minister Narendra Modi
had promised that waiving farm loans would be the first decision of the BJP
government in Lucknow.
In the Maharashtra Assembly, Fadnavis said if a loan waiver was announced, the government wouldn’t have money to invest in the agriculture sector. He said his government had increased expenditure on agriculture and allied sectors and accused the Opposition of shedding “crocodile tears” for farmers, saying the parties’ demand was politically motivated as they were decimated in the recent civic polls.
On Wednesday, State Bank of India (SBI) Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya had opposed waiving off farmers’ debts. “Credit discipline breaks when you waive off farm loans. Money will come today because government will pay but when we will give loan in future, farmers will wait for next elections. Support to farmers is necessary but not at the cost of credit discipline,” Bhattacharya had said on the sidelines of an event in Mumbai.
In New Delhi, Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief Sitaram Yechury said at a press briefing the SBI chief’s comments suggest the Modi government was unlikely to deliver upon its promise of a farm loan waiver.
“They have restructured NPAs (non-performing assets) of corporates but are unwilling to waive farmer loans at a time when farmers are committing suicide,” Yechury said.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition-led by Janata Dal (United)’s Sharad Yadav criticised the government for allowing duty-free import of wheat and pulses in a year of bumper harvest.
Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu termed the criticism “unfair”, but was asked by the Opposition benches not to intervene on an issue that didn’t relate to his portfolios.
During a Lok Sabha
discussion on the demand for grants in agriculture, Indian National
Lok Dal’s Dushyant Chautala said the PM had promised a farm loan waiver
in UP but the finance ministry now said the Reserve Bank of India felt it will have negative impact.
Chautala said Haryana and Maharashtra, too, should get farm loan waivers. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said “since it is Modi government, Modi should do it for the entire country".
In the Maharashtra Assembly, Fadnavis said his government has significantly increased capital expenditure on agriculture and allied sectors to Rs 19,434 crore. He said Rs 11,500 crore had been spent on crop insurance and assistance for natural calamities.
"I want the Opposition leaders to guarantee that if we waive off the outdated loan of Rs 30,500 crore, there will be no single farmer suicide. Since the loan waiver of 2008-09, 16,000 farmers have committed suicide," Fadnavis said.
"Farmers became debt-ridden within a year of the loan waiver. After the previous loan waiver, banks did not find the farmers credit worthy for fresh loans," the CM said.