LUCKNOW: As promised in BJP’s election manifesto, the Yogi Adityanath government, in its first cabinet meeting on Tuesday, waived crop loans of around 86 lakh small and marginal farmers of Uttar Pradesh, incurring a total cost of over Rs 36,000 crore.
In a farmer-friendly decision, the Yogi government also decided to set up 5,000 wheat purchasing centres across the state. To avoid middlemen, farmers can sell their produce directly to such centres by showing Aadhaar cards or land sowing papers.
Calling it a coincidence that the Yogi government’s first cabinet took nine decisions on the festival of Ram Navami, cabinet minister Siddharth Nath Singh said that a proposal on illegal slaughterhouses was also discussed. He said 26 illegal slaughterhouses in the state had been closed till date.
Announcing the decisions after a 90-minute meeting, Singh said loans of up to Rs 1 lakh taken by small and marginal farmers, with land holdings of less than five acres, until March 31, 2016, would be waived. The cabinet also decided to declare loans worth Rs 5,630 cr given by banks to the state’s 7 lakh farmers as “non-performing assets”, writing these off.
Singh said, “The total expenditure on these two heads would be Rs 36,359 crore, which would be raised through ‘Kisan Rahat Bond’ to keep the budget deficit within the limit of 3% of GDP.”
A government release stated, “Out of 2.30 crore farmers in the state, approximately 2.15 cr have land holdings between one and five acres. About 86.68 lakh of them are estimated to have taken crop loans from banks and they would be benefited.”
Reiterating the government’s position, Singh said no officer would be allowed to act “over-zealously” while enforcing the law, and anyone found doing so would be taken to task. The government is bound to follow NGT and Supreme Court rulings in letter and spirit, Singh said.
Reacting to the Cabinet decisions, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav accused the Yogi government of cheating the farmers.
“This is not what the BJP had promised. It had promised to write off farmer loans and never spoken about any limit,” he tweeted minutes after the waiver was announced.
Replying to Akhilesh, power minister Shrikant Sharma said the BJP government was working towards fulfilling its poll promises but the opposition is habituated to being critical.
Sharma also said anti-Romeo squads were doing good work and have been praised by all. Officers have been directed not to harass couples or ask for their identity cards, else strict action would be taken against them, he said.
Clarifying on crop loans, Sharma said any farmer who has taken loan for pesticides, wheat, paddy, fertilizer and seeds would benefit.
An eight-member committee under chief secretary Rahul Bhatnagar has been formed to prepare the crop loan waiver scheme.
The panel, also comprising heads of various departments like finance, agriculture besides the co-ordinator of state-level bankers committee, would work out the modalities of the waiver scheme after examining all relevant aspects. The government would finalise the financing arrangements based on the recommendations of the committee.
The government’s decision to purchase wheat in first phase up to 40 lakh metric tonne with a target of purchasing up to 80 lakh metric tonne is significant, it plans to do so through 5,000 wheat purchase centres.
“If needed, these numbers could be increased,” Sharma said, adding that over and above the MSP of Rs 1,625 per quintal, the government has also decided to give an additional Rs 10 per quintal as transportation and loading charges to farmers.
The government decided to form a committee headed by deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya to study how potato farmers produce could be utilised so that they continue to grow it regularly. Other members of the panel include agriculture Surya Pratap Shahi and forest and horticulture minister Dara Singh Chauhan.
Similarly, a committee headed by Deputy CM Dr Dinesh Sharma would visit other states to study their industrial policy before a new industrial policy is formulated in the state. Other members of the committee are Satish Mahana, Shrikant Sharma, Rajesh Agrawal and Nand Gopal ‘Nandi’.
A committee has been formed to study ways to check illegal mining. It would be headed by deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya and would have Suresh Khanna and Dara Singh Chauhan as members. The committee would submit its report in a week time, Sharma said. The Cabinet thanked the Central government for giving statutory power to National Backward Commission.