Jaipur: Rajasthan became the third Congress state on Wednesday to announce a loan waiver for farmers after Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, as the party made good on a key election promise that is seen to be a big factor in its victory over the ruling BJP in the three heartland states. In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Chief Ministers Kamal Nath and Bhupesh Baghel signed off on the waiver hours after taking oath on Monday.
In Rajasthan, the Ashok Gehlot-led government had sought 10 days to announce the waiver, but did it within two days.
Under the scheme, loans upto Rs. 2 lakh will be waived at the cost of Rs. 18,000 crore to the state.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted:
Since Monday, Rahul Gandhi has been repeatedly referring to loan waivers by his party’s governments, challenging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to do the same in other states. A cellphone video shot outside parliament show him telling reporters, “Dekha aapne? Aapne dekha? Shuru ho gaya na kaam?(You see? Haven’t we started work?)”.
He said he would not allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “sleep or rest” till he waived farm loans, drawing a barb from Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. “It is a new low in public discourse,” Mr Prasad said.
On Wednesday morning, Mr Gandhi tweeted a dig at two BJP-led state governments that were seen as trying to catch up with the Congress. While Assam said it would waive farm loans, Gujarat did write off rural electricity bills to the tune of Rs. 650 crore.
Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar, however, said a loan waiver is just a temporary reprieve for farmers. “It is not a solution to farm sector distress. It is not a solution but is palliative,” said Mr Kumar. Even the country’s auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General said loan waivers don’t help, he added.
“In poorer states, only 10-15 per cent of farmers are benefited from loan waiver as few number of farmers get institutional loans in such states. In many states, not even 25 per cent of farmers avail institutional credit,” pointed out Niti Aayog Member and agriculture policy expert Ramesh Chand.