Investment in agriculture, not loan waiver, solution to farmers' problems: Fadnavis

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Under pressure to announce a farm loan waiver, the Maharashtra government is looking at ways to boost agricultural output, help cultivators come out of debt trap and transfer subsidy directly in their bank accounts.

Reeling off statistics, Fadnavis said the outstanding dues totalled Rs 30,500 crore against 3.10 million farmers in Maharashtra.

Mumbai: Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday assured the Maharashtra Assembly that a state government delegation will be meeting Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh for assistance in the agriculture sector.

"I want opposition leaders to give guarantee if we waive outstanding loans of Rs 30,000 crore", Fadnavis said in an attempt to corner the opposition even as the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena legislators noisily demanded farm loan waiver.

Sunil Tatkare (NCP), raising a point of order, argued Minister of State for Finance and Planning Deepak Kesarkar of Shiv Sena did not have the moral right to table the report as his party, too, was pushing for farm loan waiver. All these years, expenditure on agriculture investment was very less, he said adding that since his Government came to power, capital expenditure on agriculture and allied sector is Rs 19,434 crore.

Fadnavis reiterated that his Government was not opposed to farm loan waiver but wanted that the decision, when taken, to benefit farmers. The Congress and NCP are shedding crocodile tears in the name of farmers.

"Farmers became debt-ridden within a year of the loan waiver". Similarly, Rs 11,500 crore has been spent on crop insurance and assistance for natural calamities.

To prove his point that loan waiver has not worked in resolving farmers' problems, a combative Fadnavis cited that after a waiver was granted in 2009, almost 16,000 farmers committed suicide over the past year.

"It means that the loan waiver offer had achieved some success".

He also cautioned the opposition that paying for a farm-loan waiver would mean cutting down on development and capital investment works in the state.

When asked about Senas support to the demand, Vikhe Patil said, "Loan waiver is our demand from day one. We are not against loan waiver but we are deliberating on when and how it should be done", Fadnavis said. "He should tell us when he will visit the Centre and meet the concerned ministers and the Sena is firm on its stand", he said. Shiv Sena legislator Anil Kadam demanded that there be discussions with the centre before the budget is presented in the house on Saturday. "So much so that the State Government is not ready to adopt a one-line resolution in the State Legislature urging the Centre to announce waiver of loans for the distressed farmers", he said.