Maharashtra cabinet approves farm loan waiver, meal scheme

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Mumbai | Published: December 24, 2019 10:31:18 PM

The state cabinet approved the Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Farmer Loan Waiver Scheme, under which crop arrears pending till September 30, 2019, will be waived.

Announcement about these schemes was made by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday, the last day of the winter session of the state legislature held in Nagpur.

Less than a month after taking charge, the Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra on Tuesday approved the farm loan waiver scheme announced last week and also gave its nod to a subsidised meal scheme for the poor. The state cabinet approved the Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Farmer Loan Waiver Scheme, under which crop arrears pending till September 30, 2019, will be waived.

Similarly, the cabinet gave its approval to launching the ‘Shiv Bhojan’ programme, under which the poor will be served meal at the subsidised rate of Rs 10 at designated centres in all districts of the state.

Announcement about these schemes was made by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday, the last day of the winter session of the state legislature held in Nagpur. After the weekend announcement, the cabinet, which met under the chairmanship of Thackeray late in the evening, approved both the schemes just days before the Sena-NCP-Congress government completes one month in office on December 28.

According to a statement from the Chief Minister’s Office(CMO), short-term crop loan up to Rs 2 lakh taken by farmers between April 1, 2015-March 31, 2019, and short-term restructured crop loan arrears up to September 30, 2019, will be waived under the scheme. The government would seek information from banks on accounts where crop loan and restructured crop loans have not been repaid, it said.

A separate scheme for farmers who repay their dues regularly will be announced soon, the statement said. Under the ‘Shiv Bhojan’ scheme, the state government will incur an expenditure of Rs 6.4 crore for starting a pilot project that will run for three months. Under the pilot scheme, at least one ‘Shiv Bhojan’ canteen will be started at district headquarters. Each canteen will serve 500 thalis (plates), the statement.

The ShivBhojan thali, available at Rs 10 each, will consist of two chapatis, one vegetable, rice and dal, it said. Canteens serving the meal will be functional between 12 noon and 2 pm. Based on the response, the scheme will be extended to other parts of the state, the statement said.

Even though the customer will have to pay just Rs 10 per thali, the actual cost of the food will be Rs 50 each in urban centres and Rs 35 in rural areas, it said.

The balance amount will be given as grant to the district collectorate. Those interested in starting Shiv Bhojan canteens should have their own space. Existing restaurants,women self-help groups and NGOs can apply, the statement said.

A committee headed by the district collector at the urban level and the tehsildar at the rural level will chose whom to give contract for running such canteens, it said. These canteens will function at places where poor persons work or live like markets, district hospitals, bus stations, railway stations and government offices.

A high-powered committee headed by the chief secretary will monitor the implementation of the scheme. To make the scheme a success, cross-subsidy and public-private partnership will be considered by the panel, the statement said.

“Initially, 50 outlets of Shiv Bhojan will be set up for people where full meal will be available at Rs 10. We will expand the number of such outlets phase-wise depending on feedback,” the CM had told the Assembly. Making meal available at Rs 10 for the poor was one of the pre-poll promises made by the Shiv Sena.

On Saturday, the Sena-led government had announced a loan waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh for farmers with the cut off date of September 30, 2019. The new scheme comes over two years after the Rs 34,000-crore loan waiver announced by the then BJP-Sena government in June 2017.

Finance Minister Jayant Patil had last week said the waiver would be unconditional, but there was no word on how much financial burden the scheme would put on the treasury. The chief minister had promised the scheme will require minimum documentation and will be hassle-free. Patil had said those wanting to avail of the waiver will need to approach their bank only with Aadhaar card.

Members of Parliament, legislators and government employees will not receive the benefit of loan waiver, Patil had said, adding the scheme will cover farmers who cultivate fruit trees and sugarcane as well as conventional crops.

In the Assembly last week, Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP had alleged the Sena-led government had not fulfilled its original promise of full loan waiver. Fadnavis had also said the scheme will benefit very few farmers as most of them were already covered by his government’s 2017 programme. The government “cheated” farmers as it had not offered a full loan waiver, the former chief minister had said and announced an agitation over the issue.

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