Arunkumar Bhatt

Prime Minister’s package has not served the purpose: Uddhav

NAGPUR: A week-long march by Shiv Sena workers demanding that farmers’ debts be written off ended here on Monday, with a warning by executive president Uddhav Thackeray that the agitation would spread all over the State if the Maharashtra government ignored the plea.

The march, led by Divakar Raote, MLC, began on November 13 from Mozari village in the Vidharbha region, now infamous for suicide by farmers.

Mr. Thackeray, who along with other Sena leaders and legislators joined the march in the morning at Waddham, about 10 km from the destination, told reporters: “The government will have to accept it [the demand] or go. This is not the end but the beginning of our agitation.”

The Sena leader said farmers all over the State were debt-ridden and even sugarcane growers in other regions were in trouble.

The Sena had launched the agitation in Vidharbha, where cotton growers faced a crisis, a large number of them committing suicide.

“The Prime Minister’s package has been found useless and has not served the purpose,” said the son of the party supremo Bal Thackeray. Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, however, claimed that the financial assistance and concessions yielded good results and the number of suicides had come down.

“The packages given to the six most affected districts in Vidharbha are aimed at preventing debt-ridden farmers from taking the extreme step and that has worked. But unfortunately, cases of suicide committed for other reasons are also taken as debt-related,” he told reporters on the eve of the winter session of the Legislature here.

Asked about providing a package to other districts in Vidharbha, Mr. Deshmukh said it involved consideration of four other States, and not this Maharashtra region alone. That could be done by the Union Government.

The Chief Minister said farmers of the State owed cooperative banks and societies about Rs. 7,500 crore but loan waiver had to be decided by the Centre.