Following defeats in the Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh elections and in the face of a growing agrarian unrest in the state, the Maharashtra government has decided to credit farmers’ money directly to their bank accounts on a monthly or yearly basis. State government officials said the amount could be anything from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 a year. “Officials from the agriculture and finance departments will meet this week to see how we can give the money to the farmers,” a senior official said.
According to another official, the government is studying different formulae — from that followed by Telangana to that by Odisha. While Telangana pays Rs 4,000 per acre to a farmer per sowing season, Odisha gives Rs 5,000 per cropping season to small and marginal farmers in the state.
Sources said Maharashtra is planning something on the line of Odisha because Telangana hasn’t put a cap on the number of acres held by a farmer while doling out the cash. Accordingly, in Telangana, even a 50-100-acre landholding would make the farmer eligible for the largesse. According to conversations with officials, there could be a cap on the number of acres that a farmer could get, ranging from 2.5 acres to 5 acres. “This will cover the small and marginal farmers and would benefit them; if you extend to farmers with more than 5 acres, then the scheme would be unsustainable for the state,” one of them said.
Even after keeping farmers with more than 5 acres of land outside the largesse ambit, it would be difficult for the state to meet the expenses. Maharashtra is reeling under a Rs 4-lakh crore debt burden, which is rising exponentially every passing year. In 2017, it paid Rs 28,220 crore as interest. If the state starts another monthly or annual pay-out, it will shoot up further.
Bureaucrats have come up with an alternative option. Maharashtra revenue minister Chandrakant Patil on Saturday mooted the idea of farmers depositing a specific amount, ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000 with the government. The state would then add Rs 10,000 to this and give it back to the farmers at equated monthly instalments.