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Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar today said the Opposition was not concerned about the plight of farmers and their demand for a loan waiver is a "political gimmick". "Their demands are only political gimmicks. They are not at all concerned with sufferings of farmers. They think that by stalling the business of the legislature, people will forgive them for their 15 years of misrule," Mungantiwar told reporters here. The BJP leader said the Opposition had failed to do anything for farmers when they were in power at Centre and in Maharashtra. "They (opposition Congress and NCP) are aware of their inaction when they were in power.
In recent civic elections in some parts of the state they have lost miserably. Let the Congress do it (waive off loans) for farmers in Karnataka first," he said. The minister said the state government was very much in favor of permanently waiving off the debt burden of farmers, but at the same time the government wants to ensure that farmers do not fall into a debt trap again. He also dismissed the contention that state government can directly deposit farmers' money in banks. "Most of the district central cooperative banks and agricultural credit cooperatives are controlled by Congress and NCP. Their real motive behind the demand is these banks want their dues cleared," Mungantiwar said. What is the guarantee that these banks will transfer the loan waiver funds to the farmers, he asked. The government will need Rs 30,500 crore to waive off the debt of 31 lakh farmers in the state. There are about 1.36 crore farmers' bank accounts in the state. The proceedings of the Maharashtra legislature remain disrupted during the ongoing budget session on the loan waiver demand being raised aggressively by Congress and NCP. Mungantiwar said the agricultural production, which has been in the negative for the last several years, has turned positive this year. He said the government was studying options to reduce burden on agriculture by focusing on skill development and paying more attention on sectors that add value to the agri sector.
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