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Farm loan waivers, a severe strain on state finances, will not help tide over the situation. RBI chief Raghuram Rajan and banking community as a whole have been explicitly expressing their futility

Farm loan waivers, a severe strain on state finances, will not help tide over the situation. RBI chief Raghuram Rajan and banking community as a whole have been explicitly expressing their futility

The latest meeting of Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and industry captains from across the nation opens up a new chapter for Indian economy if the participants stick to the first-of-its-kind consensus that was evolved. It is an established fact that industry places its own interests above those of the farming sector. In a welcome change-of-heart, during the pre-budget interactions, several of them urged Jaitley to revitalise the agriculture sector. That the government was exhorted to boost farm productivity and raise rural incomes in order to ensure all-inclusive growth comes as more than a glimmer of hope.

In the run-up to the General Elections, the Narendra Modi-led NDA rekindled hopes of rural India, which had seen around 12,000 farmer suicides the year before, with the avowed assurance to restore the glory of farming sector. In the Union Budget, Jaitley initiated a string of measures aimed at helping the farming lot with Rs 500 crore fund for farm price stabilisation and included Rs 100 crore agri-infra fund, an agro-technology institute, warehousing expansion, rural internet and technology mission and extension of a liberal credit to five lakh landless farmers. However, rhetoric apart, a sense of optimism is missing and suicides continue to be reported from all over India.

The situation is so alarming that a Supreme Court bench sought an explanation from the Centre and Maharashtra on the agrarian crisis and farmer suicides. The story is no different nearer home. Rather, it is even more alarming in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The first separate budget for agriculture with an outlay of Rs 13,108 crore unveiled in Andhra Pradesh does not seem to be alleviating the suffering of farmers. The government under fire over farmer suicides, mostly in Anantapur district, continues to be in a denial mode. In the case of Telangana, the ambitious Rs 1 lakh crore budget has done little to bring cheer to the farmers, whose travails are compounded by power outages.

Andhra Pradesh has the highest share of indebted agricultural households in the country at 92.9 per cent, followed by Telangana at 89.1 per cent. Farm loan waivers, a severe strain on State finances, will not help tide over the situation. RBI chief Raghuram Rajan and banking community as a whole have been explicitly expressing their futility. Declared defaulters, farmers would be driven into the vicious traps of nefarious money lenders. Thus, with precious time lost and the next budget due in another two months, India Inc wants governments to bail out the farmers. Agriculture accounts for about 14% of GDP (2013-14 PE) but provides direct or indirect livelihood to as much as 50% of the country's workforce. It is time the morale of farmers is boosted with timely intervention by the governments to help revive demand for industry, or at least to stop suicides by the nation’s ‘Annadataas’. Hope springs eternal!

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