States should waive farm loans: Agriculture Minister

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New Delhi, March 30 (IANS) Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Thursday said states should consider loan waiver for farmers after the Congress in the Lok Sabha demanded that the Centre announce the measure across the country.

The issue was raised by Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia soon after Question Hour.

“This government says Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas (inclusive development) but the farmer is only committing suicide,” Scindia said.

He said the way the BJP promised farm loan waiver in Uttar Pradesh, the Centre should do that across the country.

“We demand that farmers’ loans should be waived off,” he said.

“Look at the condition of farmers in Tamil Nadu. They are facing a bad drought. Farmers have come to Delhi with skulls of other farmers who committed suicide. They asked for Rs 40,000 crore, they (Centre) did not even give Rs 2 crore. They are stuck on rhetoric, there is no action,” Scindia said referring to farmers protesting at Jantar Mantar in the national capital.

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Radha Mohan Singh, however, said the government has given Rs 15,000 crore from the disaster fund in 2015-16, and added that states had received more funds from the Finance Commission this year, so states can take the step of loan waiver.

“Our sympathy and support is with the farmers,” the minister said.

“In Uttar Pradesh, BJP said they would waive loans for marginal farmers… As far as loan waiver is concerned, I will be happy if any state does that. States have got lot of money from the Finance Commission,” the minister said.

He also pointed out that farm loan waivers given by the UPA government in 2008 did not have much effect on farmers’ suicides.

“You gave farm loan waiver in 2008. In 2008, suicides due to agricultural distress were 13 per cent of all suicides. In 2009, it was 13.7 per cent. Now it is around 9.4 per cent,” he said.

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This comes as a group of farmers from Tamil Nadu stayed put at Jantar Mantar here for the seventeenth day in a row to demand drought relief packages from the Central government.

The Agriculture Minister said Tamil Nadu was given Rs 1,082 crore under the disaster relief fund in five years prior to 2014 while Rs 3,000 crore was given by the NDA government in the last two years. He also said that he has met the Agriculture Minister of Tamil Nadu and also the farmers in the chamber of Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M. Thambidurai.

On Thursday, the farmers at Jantar Mantar taped their mouths shut in a silent protest. The farmers are demanding a drought relief package and a loan waiver.

“The natural calamities that are there in Tamil Nadu and the country… States have money in disaster funds. For whole country, the allocation for this fund was Rs 24,000 crore. We made it Rs 47,000 crore,” the minister said.

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He added that an amount of Rs 1,748 crore has been sanctioned for Tamil Nadu from the national disaster fund.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) latest data, farmer suicides saw a spike of 41.7 per cent in 2015 from 2014.

The year 2015 saw 8,007 suicides by farmers, as compared to 5,650 suicides in 2014.

According to the data, of the over 3,000 farmers who committed suicides across the country in 2015 due to debt and bankruptcy, 2,474 had taken loans from banks or microfinance institutions.



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