The NITI Aayog on Wednesday said waiving farm loans is not a solution to the agrarian distress as it benefits only a fraction of farmers, PTI reported. “Farm loan waiver is not a solution to farm sector distress,” Vice Chairperson Rajiv Kumar said. “It is not a solution but is a palliative.”
Kumar was speaking at a press conference after the release of NITI Aayog’s “Strategy for New India@75” document. Ramesh Chand, another member of the think tank and an agriculture policy expert, echoed Kumar’s views.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi had on Tuesday warned that the Opposition will “not let Prime Minister Narendra Modi sleep at night” until he waives loans of farmers all over the country. His remark came a day after two Congress chief ministers announced loan waivers for farmers within hours of taking oath, as the party had promised. On Wednesday, the Gujarat government waived Rs 625 crore worth of unpaid electricity bills of more than 6 lakh people in rural areas, while Assam announced a Rs 600-crore farm loan waiver.
Chand said it is not worth spending so much money on farm loan waivers when huge variations exist among states in terms of farmers’ access to institutional credit. “In poorer states, only 10%-15% of farmers benefit from loan waiver as few number of farmers get institutional loans in such states,” he said. “In many states, not even 25% of farmers avail institutional credit.”
Reports from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India have also shown that farm loan waivers do not help, said Chand. “Loan waivers is no solution to address distress in farm sector,” he said.
Kumar also said that no government had worked for farmers as much as the current one led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ANI reported. “What can I say? It’s like ‘maano na maano main hi champion’ [believe it or not, I am the champion],” he said.
Kumar was reacting to Gandhi’s comment on Twitter that his party would wake Modi up from his slumber over farm loans. “PM is still asleep. We will wake him up too,” Gandhi had tweeted earlier in the day.
Kumar said that no other government had accepted the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report, which had advised the government to raise credit for farmers to Rs 10.50 lakh crore. “Rahul Gandhi’s governments should do their work, others will do theirs,” he said.