Schemes worth ₹1,000 crore are subsidy, not loan waiver, says Minister
The Assam government on Wednesday rolled out a slew of pro-farmers sops worth ₹1,000 crore annually, but insisted they were not copycat debt relief schemes.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, the State’s Finance Minister, announced the Assam Farmers’ Credit Subsidy Scheme, the Assam Farmers’ Interest Relief Scheme, and the Assam Farmers’ Incentive Scheme to cover 27 lakh farming households across 26,000 revenue villages serviced by 1,800 rural and semi-urban bank branches.
“These are subsidy schemes, not loan or debt waiver schemes and have been in the process after having been included in the State’s Budget for the 2018-19 fiscal. It was incorporated to mark 125 years of the Patharughat peasants’ movement and not copied from Madhya Pradesh or Gujarat or anywhere else,” Mr. Sarma said.
Some 140 peasants were killed in police firing on January 28, 1894, at Patharughat in north-central Assam’s Darrang district. The farmers had gathered there to protest arbitrary increase in taxes levied by the British.
Under the credit subsidy scheme, launched this year as a pilot project, the government would reimburse 25% of the loan repaid by farmers in their accounts. The cap on reimbursement will be ₹25,000.
“This will cover 2.62 lakh farmers who have taken loans through Kisan Credit Card. Those who have repaid the loan fully or partly will be reimbursed, and those who are about to pay will have to pay only 75% of the returnable money,” Mr. Sarma said.
The scheme, to cost the government ₹500 crore annually, has been extended to small tea growers and rubber planters too.
The interest relief scheme, to cost the government ₹200 crore, intends to make krishi loans interest-free. “The Central government provides 3% subsidy on interest on such loans. The Assam government will take care of the remaining 4%, which means we will move towards zero interest on farm loans,” Mr. Sarma said, adding that the scheme would be for loans up to ₹2 lakh.
The incentive scheme, worth ₹300 crore, targets about 3 lakh farm loan defaulters to bring them back into the banking system. “We will give ₹10,000 to make the NPA (non-performing assets) accounts of farmers active again. We hope this will encourage some 8 lakh more farmers in Assam who have never taken loans,” Mr. Sarma said.
Tractors to be given
Apart from these schemes, the Assam government would be distributing tractors in all revenue villages. Some 7,000 tractors have already been given, the Minister said.
The government would also be providing ₹5,000 each to 27 lakh farmers as agricultural input subsidy. The scheme will start with 5 lakh farmers who registered for it.