In the backdrop of the farmers' protest march towards Delhi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday listed various initiatives, including the crop loan waiver and proposed soft loan of Rs 40 billion to sugar mills for settling their arrears, to underline his government's pro-farmer agenda.
Talking to the media at a hurriedly convened news conference even as negotiations continued with agitating farmers in the national capital, Adityanath said that during earlier regimes, the distressed farmers were forced to commit suicide owing to mounting losses even as they also braved 'lathi-charge' for getting fertiliser and seed.
"When we came to power last year, the sugarcane farmers' arrears on mills were to the tune of Rs 260 billion, pertaining to crushing years starting from 2011-12 to 2016-17," he said, adding that the state government ensured that the previous years' arrears were completely liquidated.
Further, Adityanath said that the sugar mills had paid nearly Rs 260 billion pertaining to the recently concluded 2017-18 crushing season, while the remaining component of about Rs 90 billion would be settled by November 2018. He also blamed the low sugar prices globally for the present crisis.
"We have made a provision of Rs 40 billion in the Budget to offer soft loan to mills for settling outstanding. The funds would be directly credited to the farmers' bank accounts," he added.
Besides, he also mentioned the crop loan waiver announced last year to benefit more than 8 million small and marginal farmers in the state.
"We are ready for another paddy procurement season to purchase 5 million tonnes (mt) of paddy against last year's aggregate of 4.3 mt. For the first time, the state government has announced the minimum support price (MSP) for potato, pulses and oilseeds," he said.
Meanwhile, farmers from the state are protesting under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) over pending farm issues, including farm loan waiver, fuel price cut, National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on 10-year-old tractors, complete procurement of crops, power tariff relief, crop insurance, etc.
Adityanath claimed that the Centre and the state had already accepted most of the farmers' demands and that the government delegation was holding discussions with the farmers' representatives.
On the use of force by the police to stop farmers from entering the national capital, the chief minister underlined that the protest by the farmers was completely peaceful all along the UP-Delhi border, although he blamed vested interests for trying to disrupt the peace and for sabotaging the peaceful resolution of the issue.
"The Centre and the state stand firmly with farmers and are always working for ensuring their prosperity. However, no one could be given the liberty to disrupt the law and order environment," he asserted even as he flayed the Opposition's leaders for shedding "crocodile tears" and trying to play politics on the matter.