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Shiv Sena's poll promises will ruin Maharashtra
Vijay Singh in Mumbai | July 14, 2004 19:28 IST
Last Updated: July 14, 2004 20:02 IST
With Maharashtra facing a drought-like situation for the last three years, the Shiv Sena is promising desperate farmers, squeezed between their debt and very low grain production, the moon in return for their votes.
If the Sena manages to form the government after the assembly election, due in September-October, and implements its promises, it is likely to take the state deeper into a debt crisis.
To begin with, it proposes to exempt farmers from repaying their loans while at the same time asking banks to extend fresh credit to help them get back on their feet. It will ask banks to collect the amount due from farmers, about Rs 5,000 crore (approximately US $1.087 billion), from the state government.
It also proposes to give them free electricity for a few years; the exact number is yet to be revealed. This, however, will not mean exemption from paying previous dues.
If implemented, these moves will push Maharashtra further towards insolvency. The state exchequer is already weighed down by a total debt of about Rs 1,00,000 crore (US $21.739 billion).
But Nirupam defended the proposals saying, "A little more debt won't hurt, especially since it will greatly benefit farmers and stop them from committing suicide."
Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram has proposed to reduce the interest on dues owed by the state's farmers by increasing the tenure of the loans. Nirupam hopes the amount saved will compensate for the write-off that the Sena has in mind.
Since the central government has already announced several farmer-friendly measures in the Union Budget, how much impact will the Shiv Sena's proposals have?"It will take some time to implement the proposals in the Union Budget," Nirupam said. "But if voted to power, we promise to provide immediate relief to farmers. Our proposals will be more beneficial to them than the central government's."
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