Amid monsoon worry, interest-free loan for Rajasthan farmers
Jaipur, July 29 (IANS) As possible monsoon failure looms large, the 26 million farmers in Rajasthan have unexpected help at hand. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has announced a far-reaching scheme that entitles them a loan of up to Rs.1 lakh each, interest-free.
Nearly Rs.1,800 crore of additional allocation has already been made for this scheme.
Officials said this was a part of the larger contingency plan ordered by the chief minister in the event of a bad monsoon year to protect the interests of farmers in the state.
"This scheme will specifically benefit small farmers and free them from the clutches of moneylenders who charge high interest rates. The money can be used to buy fertilizers, seeds, pesticide and diesel needed to raise crops," a senior official said.
"What makes the scheme even more attractive and unique is that farmers who repay the loan by the due date will not have to pay interest. This kind of scheme, perhaps, is being implemented for the first time in the country," the official added.
Data with the Indian Meteorological Department of the central government's ministry of earth sciences suggests rail deficiency or deficit has been 63 percent below normal in west Rajasthan and 35 percent in the eastern parts.
As a result, sowing for the ongoing kharif season has shrunk by half in Rajasthan.
Outlining the contours of the scheme, officials said the loan will be made available for both the kharif and rabi crop seasons through gram sewa cooperative societies. There are over 5,000 such societies in Rajathan and all of them are linked to the loan scheme.
In the beginning of the year, the chief minister had allowed Rs.8,000 crore worth of cooperative loans. This has been hiked to Rs.9,431 crore so that more farmers benefit from the interest-free loan scheme.
In another decision, the chief minister has decided to release Rs.300 crore from the primary cooperative land development banks for disbursal as cooperative crop loans so that there is no shortfall of funds.
The state has also written to the central government requesting that the mandatory work days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme be enhanced to 200 days from 100 during crisis periods including when there are deficit rains.
As part of the ongoing efforts to come out with initiatives to help farmers in distress, policy changes were made earlier to award compensation to farmers whose crops are destroyed by natural disasters.
"Farmers no longer face problems in getting compensation. The crop insurance scheme's scope has been widened and procedures have been simplified. The chief minister is keen that the problems of farmers are solved without delay," an official said.
Another official explained that when the Congress took power three-and-a-half years ago, a landmark decision was taken by Chief Minister Gehlot not to hike electricity tariff for crops for five years.
"Farmers who use electricity for irrigation are also being provided power for as many as eight hours every day. This is specially monitored and ensured. A special cell has been created at the chief minister's level to address complaints of farmers," he said.
"The chief minister himself monitors the power situation and problems of farmers."
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