Mumbai: Aiming to help the farming community ahead of the commencement of kharif season, the Maharashtra Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has approved a scheme whereby zero interest will be charged on crop loans up to Rs 3 lakh for those farmers who had been regular with their repayment. Earlier, there was 1 per cent concession in interest rate for crop loans between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 3 lakh that were repaid on time. The concession was increased by 2 per cent (total 3 per cent, now waived), said the chief minister's office (CMO) in a statement on Thursday. The cabinet decision aims to reduce the burden of agricultural loans on farmers.
There are 1.52 crore farmers with bank accounts and of the 209 lakh hectares under cultivation, nearly 141 lakh hectares (67 per cent) are under kharif crops.
The cabinet decision is in line with the Centre’s decision, which too has done away with the 3 per cent interest on such farm credits. Under the Dr Punjabrao Deshmukh Crop Interest Subsidy Scheme, farmers who repay interest on loans up to Rs 3 lakh get interest subsidy. Earlier, there was a 3 per cent interest subsidy on loans up to Rs 1 lakh, 1 per cent concession on interest for loans between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 3 lakh.
Now, there will be an additional 2 per cent concession if loans up to Rs 3 lakh are repaid on time, the CMO statement said. The Central government also gives 3 per cent concessions on crop loan up to Rs 3 lakh, for timely repayment. Hence, farmers will get 6 per cent concession and they will repay their short-term crop loan at zero per cent interest rate.
Thursday’s decision is in keeping with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s announcement of zero per cent interest crop loans in the annual budget for 2021-22. He had also proposed interest-free loans up to Rs 3 lakh for farmers. At a function to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of his party, the NCP on Thursday morning, Pawar had declared that the government would soon take a decision in this regard.
Further, the cabinet nod comes on the heels of the state-level bankers’ committee credit plan of Rs 4,60,881 crore for 2021-22 for Maharashtra. Of this, the committee has earmarked Rs 1,18,720 crore for agriculture sector lending with a crop loan target of Rs 60,860 crore for 69.06 lakh farmers. This is for the first time the committee has set a target of the number of farmers who should be provided crop loans. The banks are expected to provide Rs 2,49,139 crore for micro, small and medium enterprises while Rs 90,322 crore are for other priority groups.
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