Karnataka farmers protest, seek full crop loan waiver

Bengaluru: Thousands of farmers across Karnataka on Monday protested against Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy for not waiving crop loans fully as promised by him before the May 12 assembly elections.

“Kumaraswamy promised to waive all our loans within 48 hours of coming to power. He came to power with Congress support but failed to keep the promise. He should waive all loans, including those from state-run banks,” state farmers’ association president K. Chandrashekar told reporters here.

Though Kumaraswamy on July 5 announced waiver of farm loans worth Rs 34,000 crore in the state budget for fiscal 2018-19, it is not full as it does not cover loans granted by banks owned by Central government, he said.

“As per our estimates, the total amount of crop loan raised by farmers from across the state is about Rs 126,000 crore, including interest over the years. Of the Rs 34,000 crore loans waived, the actual waiver is Rs 18,000 crore excluding interest,” said Chandrashekar.

Kumaraswamy’s loan waiver comes a year after his Congress predecessor Siddaramaiah waived farm loans worth of Rs 8,167 crore, including interest, benefitting 22 lakh distressed farmers across the state.

“Whatever be the compulsion, the Chief Minister should have fulfilled his promise to the farmers as he had committed to them. He has betrayed us,” said Chandrashekar, who was an independent legislator in the previous assembly.

Protests were staged by hundreds of farmers and cities and towns across the state, seeking more loan waivers.

In Bengaluru, where the 10-day monsoon session of the legislature is under way, about 5,000 farmers flocked to the Freedom Park in the city centre and took out a rally to the state secretariat to meet Kumaraswamy, but Chandrashekar lamented that due to prohibitory orders in force, police stopped them.

In a related development, a primary agriculture credit cooperative society president M.C Shivananada Swamy alleged that the criteria for the waiver was unscientific.

“Kumaraswamy should find out if the criteria will do justice to farmers,” he said, according to a local media report.

Asserting that there was no clarity on the waiver, Swamy sought clarifications from the Chief Minister on the issue agitating the farmers in his letter.