Is loan waiver a panacea for rural distress?

On the eve of the Karnataka election, waivers of farm loans were one of the major election promises. Now, chief minister HD Kumaraswamy wants to fulfill his pre-poll promise and even threatened to resign if he cannot fulfill his promise. As has been seen time and time again, “farmers first” provides political mileage. With more than 55% of Indians earning their livelihood from the agricultural sector, it comes as no surprise that political parties like to place their bets on the farmers’ cause. However, the real benefit to the farmers won’t come from loan waivers.

We studied responses to farmer distress in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan (Farmer Distress: An Analysis of Intervention in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, India Consensus Report, 2018). Of the two states, farmer distress appears more pronounced in Andhra Pradesh, which has one of the highest national rates of farmer suicides, at 47 per 1,000 population, between 2010 and 2012. Nationally, in 2012 -15, over 10,000 farmers committed suicide.

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