A total of Rs 11,966 crore was spent to write off loans of 18.89 lakh farmers in the last four months under the scheme till. (Representational Image)

With surplus water stock in the state dams, farmers were hoping to reap a golden harvest through “dhul perni” or pre-monsoon sowing, however, non-disbursement of fresh crop loans has left them cash-strapped and, in turn, hampered sowing of seasonal crops across the state.

Under the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Shetkari Karj Yojna, the state government had announced a loan waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh for farmers. A total of Rs 11,966 crore was spent to write off loans of 18.89 lakh farmers in the last four months under the scheme till. Around 67 lakh farmers, of the total 1.36 crore in the state, are however still waiting for fresh crop loan, the process for which was to start in April.

In April, water stock in dams was recorded at 53.65 per cent, up from 26.95 per cent last year.

“For 2020-21, the crop loan sanctioned by the government for disbursement is Rs 74,875 crore. Last fiscal, it was Rs 59,766 crore,” a state-level banking committee (SLBC) official said. However, according to the guidelines, unless a farmers’ previous debts are cleared or written off, a bank cannot give them a new one.

With district collectors and revenue officials engaged in combating COVID-19 at taluka level, the role of “krushi kendras” has assumed more importance. Officials in the agriculture department, however, said, “Unless farmers have purchasing power, how can we reach out to them with seeds and fertilizers.”

Kishore Tiwari, chairman of Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission, said: “Agricultural activities across the state has come to a halt. In the Vidarbha region, which accounts for 30 per cent of the country’s cotton production, farmers are left with an unsold cash crop. The prices in private markets have crashed and traders are exploiting farmers. Procurement centres, owned by the state government, are not functioning.”

Whether cotton, tur or other cereals, no procurement centres are operational in Vidarbha, Marathwada, North Maharashtra, Western Maharashtra or Konkan, he said. “The minimum support price for cotton, decided by the Centre, is Rs 5,500 per quintal. But farmers are getting Rs 4,200 to 4,700 per quintal. With the lockdown period extended (till April 30), traders are also bargaining hard… With farm produce remaining unsold, farmers have no money in hand,” Tiwari said.

Meanwhile, in parts of Vidarbha, unseasonal rainfall warning has left farmers worried. Unsold cotton and tur, lying in open fields or village homes, would have to be sold at a further lower price in case it is affected by moisture.

A Yavatmal-based farmer activist, Sanjay Pawar, said, “The nationwide lockdown has adversely hit the agriculture sector. Farmers are now wondering what to sow. Generally, dhul perni helps them to sustain, both in terms of farm produce and finances. March and April are crucial months in terms of raising loans and procuring seeds and fertilizers. Almost entire loan disbursement is completed by May 31, but this year there is no word on when it will start. Since a majority of farmers are waiting for loan waiver, they cannot seek new crop loan. It is a catch-22 situation for them.”

Last year, onion cultivation fetched higher remuneration. So, more farmers took to onion cultivation. But now their stock, too, is unsold and left rotting due to inadequate transport facilities, Pawar said.

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