Rahul cites defaulting industrialists to back farm loan waiver

March 26th, 2008 - 1:44 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Fakir Balaji
Nanjungudu (Karnataka), March 26 (IANS) Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has justified the loan waiver to farmers citing industrialists who are let off with no questions asked when they default on billions of rupees taken from banks. “I have been often asked of late why farmers were being favoured with a loan waiver. In response, I say that when large industrialists default, why the same question is not raised,” Gandhi said late Tuesday at an interactive session with rural youths in this bustling town, about 40 km from Mysore.

The scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family is on a five-day whirlwind tour of Karnataka to connect with the people, especially the youths and rural folk.

On his first leg, the 37-year-old general secretary chose to spend a day in tribal areas and villages of this backward district of Chamarajanagar district for a first hand assessment of the situation.

Defending the Congress-led government’s decision to write off Rs.600 billion worth of bank loans due from small and marginal farmers, Gandhi said the issue was not being pro- or anti-poor but being fair and just to the most needy.

When Qaiser Ahmed, a farmer from nearby Yelundur, asked Gandhi why the waiver was not being extended to those holding more than two-three hectares or at least up to five hectares, as they too were equally reeling under debt burden, Gandhi replied that he personally wished the relief was extended to as many.

But he was not in favour of destroying the credit system that was meant to be financially inclusive, Gandhi added.

“When the government takes a policy decision, the financial implication is factored in it. The idea is not to destroy the system built over decades. Because if the line or logic - to wave loans of every borrower - is stretched beyond a point, the system will collapse,” Gandhi pointed out.

Commending Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party president Sonia Gandhi for responding to the “voice of the people” (read farmers), Gandhi said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had built up a capability over the last four years to make up for the farm loans.

“Governance is all about balance. If the waiver has to be extended to more or other farmers however deserving, it will become that much difficult to govern and serve the real beneficiaries - small and marginal farmers and the deprived lot.

“The difference between the UPA government and the previous government is the way you view the balance or priorities. We have put extra effort in favour of the poor, whereas the earlier government put it on the side, who were better off,” Gandhi said, taking pot shots at the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government that lost power in 2004.

Gandhi told a gathering of over 1,000 people, including farmers, women and tribals, that the national rural employment guarantee scheme (NGES), loan waiver scheme, and higher allocation for education, health, food subsidy and rural programmes were designed to help weaker sections and the deprived.

“If we do not manage the balance this way, we will not be able to provide benefits to the poor in the long run,” he asserted.

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