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Drought-hit Karnataka seeks waiver of 50% farm loans

Belagavi (Karnataka): Reeling under severe drought, Karnataka on Thursday urged the Centre to waive off 50 per cent of the farm loans, as the state government is ready to write off the rest.

“We will write off 50 per cent of the loans if the central government waives off 50 per cent of the money farmers borrowed from banks for the kharif season this fiscal,” Chief Minister Siddaramiah told lawmakers attending the 10-day winter session of the state legislature that started here on November 21.

Belagavi is about 500 km from Bengaluru in the state’s northwest region.

Deficit rains during the June-September south-west monsoon prompted the state government to declare 139 of the 175 taluks as drought-hit and seek Rs 3,000-crore aid from the central government to compensate the farmers.

“About 22 lakh farmers across the state have borrowed Rs 35,000 crore from state-run banks and Rs 10,000 crore from cooperative banks,” said Siddaramaiah in the state assembly during a day-long debate on the agrarian crisis gripping the drought-hit state.

Recalling that the previous UPA government had waived off Rs 72,000 crore worth loans of farmers, the Chief Minister accused the NDA government of safeguarding the interests of traders and discarding those of farmers’ in the state.

“An all-party delegation would soon meet the Prime Minister to seek his financial support for drought relief in 27 of the 30 districts,” Siddaramaiah said.

The main opposition BJP has urged the state government to waive off its part of the loans without waiting for the central assistance, while the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) pressed for Rs 25,000 compensation per acre of crop loss to the farmers, as majority of them are marginal farmers with small land holdings.

The opposition members staged a walkout when the Chief Minister rejected their demand.

In a rare camaraderie, the ruling Congress members also urged the state government to waive off the loans to help the distressed farmers at a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party here.

State Co-operation Minister H.S. Mahadeva Prasad said as the crop loan recovery was 95 per cent in the last fiscal (2015-16), there was no need for loan waiver then.

“The state government has extended the last date to pay the principal amount to March 31 from September 30. If defaulting farmers pay the principal, the government will pay the interest on it,” Prasad told the meeting

The Chief Minister also advised the ruling members to tour drought-hit areas and help the affected.

IANS