How many farmers are there in Maharashtra? A clear answer escapes policymakers and bankers
Maharashtra’s policymakers and bankers today face a unique problem: Exactly how many farmers are there in the state? With various government data sources offering different answers, a clear answer to this question appears to be lacking. This discrepancy in the data highlights more serious problems, including access to agricultural credit and irrigation in the state.
The issue was first raised at the August meeting of the State-Level Banking Committee (SLBC) – the highest body of state bankers, which was attended by senior ministers, including the chief minister. Uddhav Thackeray. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and Minister of State Cooperation Balasaheb Patil also attended the meeting.
The minutes of the meeting, which were viewed by The Indian Express, showed that this issue was first raised by GS Rawat, Managing Director of NABARD (National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development). “From the total number of 1.52 cr. cultivators in the state and 1.14 cr. farmers registered in PM Kisan portal, only 0.58 cr. the farmers were covered by the harvest loan facility at March 31, 2021, ”the minutes said. Thus, even 50 percent of the state’s farmers are not affected by institutional funding. As Maharashtra leads the country in terms of farmer suicides, this admission by the body that sets financial spending for agriculture and other priority sectors of the state is gaining in importance.
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PM Kisan is the central government program that sees eligible farmers receive Rs 6,000 per year into their bank accounts.
This large discrepancy revealed by the minutes was attributed to various reasons – land records, lower irrigation coverage, and farmers’ ineligibility for new credit. “In the prevailing scenario, there is a possibility of covering at least 15 to 20 new lakh farmers with the Kisan Credit Card (KCC). The state’s network of 5,900 rural bank branches and 3,500 semi-urban branches can be used to bridge the gap in KCC issuance by adopting a mission-mode approach, ”the minutes said.
The easy and appropriate availability of institutional credit has been a major demand of farmers. The unavailability of institutional credit was also a major concern. Commercial banks have been repeatedly disbanded for their slow and poor credit rollout.
The central cooperative district banks (DCCBs), on the other hand, have been more successful in reaching their lending target. Despite several waivers of agricultural loans by the state government, the inability of banks to increase their agricultural credit base has become a major concern for the state government.