Farmers’ debts have increased 53% over the last six years, the Finance Ministry told the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
In 2020-21, outstanding agricultural loans for scheduled commercial banks amounted to more than ₹18.4 lakh crore, in comparison to ₹12 lakh crore in 2015-16, with the number of farmers’ accounts holding such debts also growing from 6.9 crore to more than 10 crore.
The data, sourced from the RBI, was presented to the Rajya Sabha in a written response to a query from Indian Union Muslim League MP Abdul Wahab, who asked for details of farmers’ debts and loan waivers.
Minister of State Bhagwat Karad’s response said the Centre had not implemented any loan waivers over the last six years, nor was any such proposal under consideration. Instead, he listed various initiatives taken to reduce the debt burden, including interest subvention schemes, collateral free agricultural loans for small farmers and income support and farm insurance schemes, noting that efforts have been made to bring farmers into the fold of institutional credit rather than leaving them at the mercy of informal loans.
Highest in Maharashtra
The RBI data shows that the growth of farmers’ debt burden is highest in Maharashtra, a whopping 116% increase in the outstanding amounts due over the six–year period.
In absolute terms as well, Maharashtra farmers owe the highest amount of ₹5.5 lakh crore by way of agricultural loans. Incidentally, the State also consistently has the largest number of farmer suicides, as recorded by the National Crime Records Bureau.
Other States which saw significant increase in farmers’ debt burden include Odisha (76%), Tamil Nadu (68%), Andhra Pradesh (65%) and Gujarat (64%). Only a few States bucked the trend, with Karnataka posting a 37% drop and Punjab a modest 4.5% drop.
“The data clearly exposes the sad plight of farmers who are being crushed by the weight of sky–rocketing increase of debts,” Mr. Wahab said, commenting on the response. “[The Prime Minister] has miserably failed to deliver his promise of doubling the farmers’ income by 2022 and instead ended up doubling their debt by 2022,” said the MP, urging urgent relief measures and the consideration of a loan waiver.