Lollipops: BJP ruled states busy distributing them

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi disdainfully dismissed farm loan waivers as ‘lollipops’, why are BJP ruled states busy announcing them? PM and BJP are giving out confused signals on the farm crisis

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Soroor Ahmed

If a majority of farmers take loan from mahajan or money lenders, as claimed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a TV interview on New Year’s Day, he inadvertently conceded a major failure of his government, which has been in power for more than four and a half years.

Not only the three states he was referring to–– Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan––were till recently ruled by his own Bharatiya Janata Party but in two of them it had been in power for 15 long years. The statement was ironical because the PM has been tirelessly claiming that his government had expanded the network of banks and has dramatically expanded the reach of banks among the poor.

The Prime Minister, if banking experts and pink dailies are to be believed, was also factually wrong since a very high number of farmers seem indebted to banks. According to one such report Maharashtra has nearly ₹4.2 trillion agriculture loans (23% of loans) and ₹1.2 trillion farm loans (7% of loans) with PSU banks holding nearly 52% of total farm loans, followed by co-operative banks (32%) and private banks (12%).

In other states the exposure of banks to farm loans may not be as high as 96% as in Maharashtra. But it does call into question the Prime Minister’s understanding that a majority of the farmers still take loan from the village moneylender.

But if only big and medium farmers are linked to the banks and a huge majority of the small and marginal farmers still rely on village money lenders for loan, it exposes the functioning of the nationalised banks. It means that they have still failed to penetrate into the rural areas of India and that farmers still fear taking loans from them. They still prefer the money lenders who extract much interest as they have no alternative.

The tall claim of Jan Dhan Yojana and other related claims stand exposed.

This is not the allegation of any opposition leader but a confession the Prime Minister of the country has unwittingly made on television interview watched by millions throughout the world.

Nobody in the Congress, or any other opposition party, or those leading the agitation for the cause of farmers, are claiming that waiving of farm loan is a good policy or even a long-term solution. What they all are saying is that this may provide some succour to the farmers who are facing serious problems

As he appears to be in a hurry to criticise the announcement of the waiver of farmers’ loan by the three newly elected Congress governments in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan he in a way appreciated the fact that his own party government in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh had made similar announcements in the past. But why did he not speak out then?

Not only that, the Centre did not prevent the BJP ruled Assam and Gujarat from waiving farm loans and electricity bills after the three Congress ruled states fulfilled their election promise they had made.

As Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of the country, he should during the election campaign, have come out openly against the policy of farm loan waiver. He should have been courageous enough to declare that this policy is harmful for the country.

Now, when five state governments, including two ruled over by his own party, took steps in this direction he had suddenly woken up to question the merits of this policy.

Nobody in the Congress, or any other opposition party, or those leading the agitation for the cause of farmers, are claiming that waiving of farm loan is a good policy or even a long-term solution. What they all are saying is that this may provide some succour to the farmers who are facing serious problems.

There is now a general consensus in the country that farming needs a new strategy.

The BJP top brass are now privately conceding that the Congress party has cut the ground from under its feet by making the cause of farmers a big election issue ahead of the coming Lok Sabha poll.

The BJP is now feeling the heat and giving a confused signal. While the Prime Minister is critical of waiving of farm loans, his own party’s governments in the states are busy waiving off farm loans.

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Published: 3 Jan 2019, 6:15 PM
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