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Even as Congress Dares PM to Waive Farm Loans, Its Karnataka Min Says Write Offs Not a Solution

The state government told the legislative assembly on December 12 that the loan waiver has helped only 800 farmers so far.

Revathi Rajeevan | CNN-News18

Updated:January 9, 2019, 5:04 PM IST
Bengaluru: Five months have passed since farm loan waiver was rolled out in Karnataka, but its merits and demerits are still being talked about.

As the process of writing off loans is still on, the state's agriculture minister NH Shivashankara Reddy feels the loan waivers are not a long term solution for farmers in distress, a view in line with that of many experts and economists.

Speaking to CNN-News18, Reddy, who is from the Congress, said that the farm loan waivers only give the farmers an immediate relief from their burden.

"Waiver is not a solution for all issues. It can reduce the burden of the farmers but we need to find other ways to improve agriculture and find way for farmers to be more dependent on agriculture,” Reddy said. He added that the state is mulling agriculture methods especially the Israeli model with better technology. Reddy emphasised on the need of technology as a long-term solution for farmer issues.

In Karnataka, 88% of talukas have been declared drought-hit.

"This year also, we did not get good rainfall. We have already waived off loans taken by farmers through cooperative societies. As a second step, we are also planning to waive off loans availed from commercial banks," said Reddy.

The loan waiver scheme is expected to benefit close to 50 lakh farmers in the state at a cost of close to Rs 45,000 crore.

However, the state government told the legislative assembly on December 12 that the loan waiver has helped only 800 farmers so far.

The agriculture minister says the delay is due to the huge sum involved and time taken in persuading the banks, and not due to the shortage of funds.

Distributing "debt-free certificates" to farmers in Bagalkote, an emotional Kumaraswamy on Friday swore on his son that he would waive off all farm loans. The same day Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Karnataka’s farm loan waiver the "cruelest joke on farmers".

"For the past four and half years, the Prime Minister did not keep his word. He has not announced any good policy. Even the Fasal Bhima Yojana seems to be faulty," said Karnataka’s agriculture minister.

Reddy feels that PM Modi has failed and that is why farmers have risen against the administration.

He believes that Karnataka has taken the lead in waiving off the farm loans.

“It has probably sent across a good message which is why we saw the loan waivers being announced in the recent assembly elections too. I think it is a good step forward,” he says. Terming the farmers as backbone, Reddy said farm loan waiver would be the focus for 2019 polls.

Talking about the farmer suicides, the minister said that not all suicides are due to loans, other factors also play a role.

“It need not be only loans, burden. Every suicide is projected as one because of something related to farmers' issues. I think that's not the case. There may be other reasons also,” he added.

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