Arun Jaitley told all states they shouldn’t expect help from the Centre and find their own resources for loan waivers.
The farmers’ agitation for loan waivers is spreading like wildfire along with more farmer suicides, and calls for a special Parliament session at the earliest. It is puzzling that finance minister Arun Jaitley told all states they shouldn’t expect help from the Centre and find their own resources for loan waivers. It was his party’s manifesto promise, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had himself pledged to double farmers’ incomes by 2020, and also promised a 50 per cent bonus above costs to farmers. His chickens are now coming home to roost. A case can be made both for and against loan waivers, but that farmers are left to nature’s vagaries can’t be ignored as nearly 90 per cent have no access to irrigation. They face a no-win situation due to pro-urban and pro-industry policies of successive governments since Jawaharlal Nehru’s. When the harvest is good and prices fall below the minimum support price, farmers get no support as the government often bans exports. When the rains fail, the farmers lose again and must fall back on schemes like NREGA, which is good but has been perverted by corrupt officials.
This recurring farm distress is due to the lack of any real policy on agriculture, even though almost 60 per cent of the population depends on this sector. Rural distress can be ignored only at the risk of a serious social uprising. Jobless rural youth are already on the warpath. A special Parliament session should look for lasting solutions. Loan waivers are a temporary but necessary palliative, but not the solution.