At a time when Opposition parties are stalling proceedings of Maharashtra legislature demanding complete loan waiver for farmers, an option of restructuring their existing loans has come forward.
"If the state government restructures the outstanding loans of farmers, it will make them eligible for availing fresh loans in forthcoming kharif season. Moreover, as the total amount (for restructuring) will be not more than Rs 3000 crore, it is logical and financially viable also as there will be no need for the state to beg to the Centre for financial assistance.
"The restructuring of the farmers' debt will make them eligible for fresh loans, as it will provide an ease to repay the loan to the banks," a senior Cabinet minister of the BJP said today.
He said if loans are restructured, "only those farmers would commit suicide who are unable to repay loans and are bound to be non-eligible for fresh loans due to existing debt."
The minister said as such farmers are more in distress, the intensity of their stress should be controlled and relief in the form of restructuring should be issued.
When asked about likely advantages of loan restructuring, the BJP leader said, "We have identified some 22 types of crops and agriculture products, where state's intervention would increase farmers' income.
"For instance, the state government is purchasing split red gram (tur or arhar) at certain higher rates. It has not only offered farmers an assured returns but some wholesale traders are purchasing tur at higher rates from farmers. In such situation, farmers are in a win-win situation," he said.
The minister said despite the state government's readiness to purchase cotton, farmers are selling it to private traders because of the same reasons that private buyers are offering better rates.
"Such market intervention, if done in remaining 20 agricultural products, including vegetables grown by most of the small and marginal farmers, they will be able to earn better and farmers will repay their loan in easy instalments," according to the minister.
He said the government was already developing infrastructural facilities for the benefit of farmers.
The Congress and NCP have been stridently demanding complete loan waiver for farmers in Maharashtra and are also being joined by the members of Shiv Sena.
Citing the BJP's electoral promise in Uttar Pradesh of waiving off the farmers' loans, the opposition is asking for the same relief in the BJP-ruled Maharashtra.
The issue has paralysed the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council during ongoing Budget session.
When asked about the reasons behind not accepting the
loan waiver demand, the minister said, "It would require at least Rs 30,000 crore and without Centre's help, the state alone cannot waive it off.
"It would also take a lot of time followed by Centre's committee visiting various areas of Maharashtra. Even if we waive the loan off, the farmers will have to avail loans from next monsoon and same circle would continue."
He said there was no provision of increasing farmers' income in the loan waiver demand being raised by the opposition parties.
"Whereas, as per our plans, once farmers' income is increased with effective state intervention, the repayment of loan would not become a major issue. Most of the farmers can repay their loan," the minister added.