Task force on farmer suicides submits first report to Devendra Fadnavis
A task force recently appointed to suggest ways to prevent farmer suicides and bring about agricultural reforms has advised the government to impose “agro strengthening special tax” and bring a five years’ crop loan policy instead of the existing one.
Late Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission led by Nagpur-based activist Kishor Tiwari submitted their first report to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis with several recommendations, including restoration of farm credit and insurance to farmers and restructuring of rural financial institutions to make them socially sensitive.
The panel that incorporated recommendations of several committees appointed by central and state governments suggested that the government expand outreach of the formal credit system to include the poor and reduce rate of interest for crop loans to four per cent.
“There should be a moratorium on debt recovery, including loans from non-institutional sources, and waiver of interest on loans in distress hotspots and during calamities, till capability is restored. An Agriculture Risk Fund should also be established to provide relief to farmers in the aftermath of successive natural calamities,” said the report submitted to the state government.
“An integrated credit-cum-crop-livestock-human health insurance package should be developed and crop insurance cover should be expanded to cover the entire state and all crops with reduced premiums,” said Mr Tiwari, panel chief and president of the Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti.
The panel advised the government to create a Rural Insurance Development Fund to take up development work for spreading rural insurance. Sustainable livelihoods for the poor should be promoted by improving financial services, infrastructure and investments in human development, agriculture and business development services.
The report further stated, “While advancing farm credit, banks often place a number of undue restrictions and rigid criteria about season, cropping pattern, scale of finance, among others. Instead of the prevailing annual cropping pattern consideration, an average cropping pattern for five years minimum should be used in setting limit and advancing loans.”
“A plan for ‘moneylender-free village’ should be adopted where at least one member of each family in a village should become a member of some self-help group (SHG). Also, every rural and semi-urban branch of each bank should adopt one village in its jurisdiction,” it said.