Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday said that farm loan waivers have become “a fashion now” and such offers should only be made in extreme situations. “It’s not a final solution,” said Naidu while speaking at a municipal bond programme in Mumbai. “You have to take care of systems. The farmers should be taken care of in distress.”
However, hours after Naidu faced criticism for his comments, he said he was referring instead to the tendency of political parties demanding debt relief, PTI reported. “When I was talking in Mumbai, I was referring to the approach of political parties that are competing with each other, asking for the waiver of loans,” he said.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said Naidu’s comments were disrespectful. “Calling loan waiver fashionable is a disrespect to our anndaata,” he told ANI.
Naidu’s remarks come a day after Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced that the state government would waive farmers’ loans up to Rs 50,000 each from cooperative banks. It is the fourth state to do in recent weeks after Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab. On April 4, the Madras High Court had directed the Tamil Nadu government to write off all farm loans accessed through cooperative banks.
Naidu’s comment echoes Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who, on June 20, had said that the Centre would not waive any farm loans as it had to meet its fiscal deficit targets. On June 12, the finance minister had said that states keen on setting aside farm loans would have to generate funds from their own resources.
Farmers across states have been staging major protests around the country. Farmers in Maharashtra began an indefinite strike on June 1, prompting the Devendra Fadnavis government to announce a loan waiver 10 days later. In Madhya Pradesh, five farmers were killed in police firing during a protest in Mandsaur on June 6. Meanwhile, hundreds of farmers from Rajasthan belonging to the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh had launched an indefinite stir in eight cities across the state on June 15.