- Scheme would not be linked to size of farmers' land holding: Minister
- Farmers called off stir after Devendra Fadnavis announced loan waiver
- High-level committee will be set up to decide on criteria for scheme
Not linking the land holding to the loan waiver means maximum number of farmers would benefit from it, the minister said.
Farmers in Maharashtra, who had been on a war path from June 1 to press for their various demands, yesterday called off their stir after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced loan waiver for them.
The government also announced setting up of a high-level committee for the implementation of the scheme. The panel will decide on the criteria of debt relief.
Mr Patil 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.
"The criteria of eligible farmers are being finalised," he added.
When the loan waiver scheme was announced in 2008, in one case a loan amount as high as Rs 82 lakh was waived in western Maharashtra. A brother of a minister, who was in the state cabinet then, also benefited from the loan waiver scheme.
We would like to avoid mistakes of the previous government and issue loan waiver to those who are solely dependent on agriculture," the minister added.
Mr Patil said this issue was raised at the meeting with farmers' leaders yesterday.
He said they 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.
"The Chief Minister on June 2 had stated that farmers having land up to five acres would be covered under the loan waiver. The decision was not appreciated by the farmers' leaders from Marathwada and Vidarbha, where land holding per person is more. Hence, on Sunday, the higher power committee of ministers decided to cover all the eligible farmers under the loan waiver scheme," he said.
The state's high-power group of ministers and the steering committee of farmers held a meeting on Sunday 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," Mr Patil said.
On Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's statement that the states have to generate their own resources for the loan waiver, Mr Patil said the state was capable of providing monetary assistance to farmers.
"The Centre had already made it clear that it would not provide financial assistance to the state government regarding the loan waiver. I must say that the state government is capable of providing financial assistance to farmers and we can bear it," he said.
He also pointed out the success of LPG subsidy given-up by the people after an appeal made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Many people had laughed at Modi's appeal to give up the subsidy. But around two crore people have given it up so far and it helped the Centre to pass on the benefits to others who are in dire need of cooking gas. We are hopeful of some farmers from Maharashtra may reject the loan waiver in the same way," the revenue minister said.
On a query about some political parties rushing for the credit of loan waiver, Mr Patil said, "It does not matter who takes the credit as long as farmers are benefited from the loan waiver scheme. Those who are seeking credit should go to the villages and educate farmers about how to prepare their documents for loan waiver."
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," Mr Shetty, whose outfit recently hit the streets, said.
Mr Shetti had earlier said if the government failed to fulfill its commitments, his organisation would resume the agitation from July 25.