In a major victory for Maharashtra’s protesting farmers, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis here on Sunday announced a loan waiver for agriculturalists.
“The government and farmer representatives reached a consensus (on the demands) after discussions. Farmers have called off the strike,” Fadnavis tweeted this evening.
The conditions and details of the farm loan waiver will be finalised by a joint committee comprising government officials and farmers, he added.
Loans of small and marginal farmers have been written off with immediate effect, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil said.
Patil, who led the discussions on behalf of the six-member Group of Ministers set up by Fadnavis two days ago, said details will be announced by July 25.
From June 1, over half a million farmers across Maharashtra, barring coastal Konkan, went on an unprecedented strike, marred by several violent incidents.
Major cities like Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur and others felt the pinch of the strike as shortages loomed large, coupled with spiralling prices of essentials like milk, fresh fruit, vegetables, and even food grain.
The farmers’ demands included waiver on farm loans, free electricity, appropriate remunerative prices for their produce, grants for irrigation, pension for farmers aged 60 years and above, and implementation of the M.S. Swaminathan Committee recommendations.
As for implementation of Swaminathan panel recommendations, Patil said the Chief Minister will lead a delegation of Ministers and farmers to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the demand can be be fulfilled by the Centre alone.
Ruling ally Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader and MP Raju Shetti said they reached a “common ground on most issues and it’s a huge victory for the farmers”.
Accordingly, he said, the strike and other forms of agitation across the state had been suspended, including Monday’s proposed dharnas outside collectorates and Revenue Department offices, and Tuesday’s rail-road blockade.
“However, if the government fails to complete the loan waiver process by July 25, we will launch a more aggressive agitation,” Shetti warned.
Farmers across the state welcomed the announcements from both sides by bursting firecrackers, cheering and dancing and distributing sweets.
“We have given an in-principle approval for loan waiver for all farmers subject to certain conditions. A joint committee of government officials and farmers will be set up to finalise these conditions,” Patil said.
However, loans of small and marginal farmers have been written off with immediate effect and they shall be entitled to get fresh agricultural loans from Monday (tomorrow), he added.
A majority of cases filed against farmers during the strike will be withdrawn, Patil said after a marathon meeting lasting nearly five hours at the Sahyadri Guest House here.
All India Kisan Sabha state General Secretary Ajit Nawale said though the farmers demands have been accepted, “we must remain alert till the government fully implements its assurances”.
Fadnavis said the government has agreed to hike the milk prices and cooperatives will have to share profits in the ratio of 70:30 on the lines of sugar cooperatives.
“Farmers and their betterment was, is, and always will be, this government’s top priority,” Fadnavis said.
The Chief Minister said the six-member Group of Ministers will hold discussions with all political parties in the state for a broader consensus on the farmers’ issues.