India Maharashtra farmers end protest after loan waiver

Farmers throwing vegetables on a road during a protest as part of the Maharashtra bandh over various demands in Nagpur, Maharashtra Image copyright Press Trust of India
Image caption Farmers in Maharashtra have dumped their produce on the roads in protest against low prices

Farmers in the western Indian state of Maharashtra have temporarily ended a protest after the state government promised to write off their loans.

The farmers had been protesting since 1 June to demand better prices for their produce and relief from debts.

Experts say the announcement will put pressure on the state's fiscal health.

Similar protests are also taking place in the central state of Madhya Pradesh where five farmers died in police shooting last week.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had earlier refused to announce a complete reversal of loans for every farmer, citing the state's critical debt situation.

But he agreed on Sunday "in principle" to a loan waiver for all sections of farmers, adding that a committee would be formed to decide on specific terms.

Farmers responded by saying their decision to call off the protest was a temporary move.

"We have decided to temporarily call off our agitation... However, if no satisfactory decision is taken (on the criterion for loan waiver) by 25 July, we will restart our stir [protest]," farmer leader Raju Shetti told the PTI news agency.

However a tense stand-off between the Madhya Pradesh government and farmers is continuing.

Chief Minister Sihivraj Singh Chouhan has promised to consider a complete reversal of loans. But farmers said he had failed to give any concrete promises on improving their lives.

"We also want farmers to be free of loans, not just a one-time waiver, but a serious change in agricultural policy that promises just returns to farmers, one which prevents them from being indebted," Shiv Kumar Sharma, the head of a group of protesting farmers, told the NDTV website.

Farmers in others states have also been demanding similar measures.

The northern state of Uttar Pradesh and the southern state of Telangana have already announced loan waivers for farmers.

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