Defending farm loan waiver, senior Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Friday said freeing farmers from debt was imperative due to agrarian crisis across the country.
"Farm loan waiver is imperative in the present scenario. As the average indebtedness of farmer families is Rs 90,000-1 lakh, how can they ever pay such loans," Chidambaram told IANS at a news conference in the party's state unit office here.
As promised in the Congress poll manifestos, Chidambaram said the party's newly-elected governments in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have responded to the farmers' distress by waiving their loans.
Lamenting that in one district of Maharashtra alone, over 100 farmers committed suicide, the former minister said of the 10-crore farmer families in the country, 5.28-crore were small and marginal farmers.
Asked if farm loan waiver was bad economics and good politics, Chidambaram retorted that it was for the people to decide whether waiver was good or bad.
"Economists who criticise farm loan waiver should try and take up farming to experience the difficulties of farming," the Congress leader told IANS.
Economists, including former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan, have said farm loan waivers could pose enormous issues for state finances and had asked the Election Commission (EC) to ensure they are kept out of poll promises.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had said in New Delhi on December 17 that he would not allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rest or sleep unless he waived loans of all farmers across the country before the next general election, due in April-May 2019.
In the southern state of Karnataka, after the former Congress government waived farm loans worth Rs 8,165-crore for 2016-17 fiscal, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S)-Congress coalition government had announced in June to waive farm loans worth Rs 48,000 crore.