Mah announces loan waiver; protests called off

Giving major relief to the farmers of the state, the Maharashtra government announced on Sunday that it has waived off loans of all farmers. We have made a decision to temporarily call off our agitation, including the dharna protests scheduled for tomorrow and day after.

Speaking about the government's mega loan waiver plan, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, "I am challenging the Congress, NCP and other parties... that this will be the biggest loan waiver in Maharashtra's history".

Loans of small and marginal farmers have been written off with immediate effect, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil said. "Since ally Shiv Sena and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna were also at farmers' side, BJP was left with no option but to accept the demands", a senior BJP leader said.

Farmers in western Madhya Pradesh are protesting since June 1 over various demands including fixing of a crop prices. The move by the Maharashtra government also includes the withdrawal of criminal cases against agitating farmers where there was no loss of property. The committee will hold discussions with farmers' leaders and submit a proposal to the state government. But farmers said he had failed to give any concrete promises on improving their lives.

Earlier in the day, the protesting farmers met with a panel of ministers constituted by Devendra Fadnavis.

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Sandip Shelke (25), who had participated in the recent stir by cultivators for various demands, allegedly hanged himself from a tree in his field in Kahamaswadi village here today, police said. While there are some riders for farmers with large land holdings, farmers who own up to five acres of land will get immediate and complete relief and can apply for a fresh loan from Monday.

Fadnavis, who himself is grappled with a simmering farmers' protest in his state for quite some time now, said there could be no justification for such killings. In northern Punjab state, farmers have widened a call for loan waivers, to seek justice for the five farmers who were killed in Madhya Pradesh.

Among the causes listed for farmers suicide, bankruptcy and loan debt accounted for 38.7 percent of total cases. Agricultural Minister Pandurang Fundkar, Minister for co-operation Subhash Deshmukh, State Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, Water Resources minister Girish Mahajan, State Transport Minister Divakar Raote are included in this committee. The farmers will be eligible for new loans from 12 June, the source added.

In another incident, a 48-year-old farmer, Hanumant Shinde, reeling under debt, committed suicide by consuming poison at Gondavewadi in Pune district yesterday.

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