Indian farmers riled over loan waiver

New Delhi, August 4:

Farmers from neighbouring states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan today an indefinite sit-in at Jantar Mantar here to protest what they called were the government’s “anti-farmer” policies.

Braving torrential rains, farmers claimed they were prepared to continue their agitation till the government completely waived off agriculture loans of all farmers, irrespective of their income.

“We are determined to carry on the strike until our demands are met. The government must waive all farm loans taken by any farmer either from nationalised banks or private moneylenders,” said Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). The agitating farmers were led at their sit-in by BKU president Mahendra Singh Tikait.

BKU enjoys considerable clout among farmers in western Uttar Pradesh, the political turf of Ajit Singh, member of Lok Sabha and president of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).

Although Tikait is a known sympathiser of Singh, the latter’s response to the stir remains to be seen as he chose to ally with Tikait’s sworn enemy Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati during the trust vote against the central government.

The farmers’ agitation here might serve as ammunition for the opposition to take on the government for being allegedly insensitive towards farmers. Tikait claimed the recent loan waiver had not helped all farmers as it was meant for only a small chunk of the country’s farming community.

“The government should announce a comprehensive loan waiver scheme for all farmers whether they are small or big,” said Tikait said adding that farmers were committing suicide because of the government’s “wrong policies”.

“If the farmers do not get adequate price for their produce, they cannot sustain themselves. Input costs have gone up manifold due to inflation. Therefore, the government must ensure farmers are adequately paid,” he said.

The government announced a farm loan waiver scheme to the tune of Rs.600 billion for around 40 million farmers, each of them holding land up to three hectares. The waiver amount was later increased in May this year to Rs.716.8 billion.