Big Karnataka farmers call loan waiver discriminatory

March 1st, 2008 - 6:37 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram
Bangalore, March 1 (IANS) Farmers in Karnataka Saturday termed the union government’s decision to waive loans of small and marginal farmers as “discriminatory”. Reacting to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s announcement to waive loans of small and marginal farmers overdue till Dec 31, 2007 and which remained unpaid till Feb 29, representatives of farmers’ organisations in the state told IANS that the waiver should have been extended to big farmers, as the latter were also facing the same crisis.

“The debt waiver is good but discriminatory. By limiting the waiver to small and marginal farmers, the government is dividing us,” said K.S. Puttanaiah, president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (state farmers’ association).

“We are not against the decision per se. It should be applied to even those who hold more than one-two hectares of land since agrarian problems are same for small, marginal and big farmers,” he added.

According to the state agriculture department, there are about six million small and marginal farmers in Karnataka. Unlike other states, farmers in Karnataka get loans at four percent interest from cooperative banks. The interest subsidy of two percent is borne by the state government.

“We will appeal to the prime minister to extend the waiver to big farmers,” Puttanaiah said.

Chukki Nanjundaswamy, who fights for women farmers in the state, said there was a need for a comprehensive solution to sustain agriculture growth and improve their lot for bridging the rural-urban divide.

“We definitely welcome the loan waiver. But it is not the way to tackle the crisis gripping the farm sector and leading to scores of suicides by farmers in our state as well as in other states. Loan waiver is an attempt to cure the symptom and not the disease,” said Chukki, daughter of veteran farmer leader Nanjundaswamy.

“Offering loans, waiving them, doling out farm subsidies such as free or cheaper power, fertilisers, seed supply and crop insurance do not address the agrarian crisis, which has been compounded by globalisation, massive farm imports and different price indices,” she added.

Hassan Farmers’ Association president Kodhihalli Chandrasekhar also said the government should not have excluded big farmers from the loan waiver.

“We don’t grudge if small and marginal farmers are given relief. What about other farmers, who constitute about 40 percent of the total farm community? This pits them against the beneficiaries and creates divisions among farmers,” Chandrasekhar told IANS from Hassan, about 200 km from Bangalore.

All the three farm leaders urged the central and state governments to implement the M.S. Swaminathan Committee report to tackle the multiple problems faced by the farm sector.

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