The Tamil Nadu government on Friday said that it will waive loans to the tune of Rs 12,110 crore, availed from cooperative banks by over 16 lakh farmers, PTI reported. The announcement comes at a time when the state is gearing up for the Assembly elections in April-May.

The scheme was announced by Chief Minister E Palaniswami in the state Assembly. Palaniswami said the waiver will be implemented immediately, and the government will make the necessary allocation for it.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister said it was important to help revive farming, since the coronavirus pandemic and two cyclones had caused huge damage to crops, NDTV reported.

I am also a farmer, I’ve a lot of affection for farmers,” Palaniswami said in the Assembly, according to Hindustan Times. “It is my responsibility to help farmers to continue their work.”

Palaniswami hit out at the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for failing to fulfil its promise of providing two acres of land to each farmer, according to PTI. He said that the rullin All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was the only party that fulfilled its promises. Palaniswami also promised to introduce new welfare measures in the state.

The Tamil Nadu government’s announcement came amid intensifying protests against the Centre’s three farming laws. Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi’s border points for over two months, seeking the repeal of agricultural laws passed in September.

The Opposition has also criticised the farm laws, and has been demanding their withdrawal during the Parliament’s Budget Session.