Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Virendra Singh Mast said on Tuesday demonetisation has taught farmers not to fritter away their earnings on lavish weddings, liquor and other extravagances.
“There were taking loans to fund weddings, spending five times more on liquor, using motorbikes to travel in areas where they can do with cycles and generally spending more,” he said.
The MP from Uttar Pradesh’s Bhadohi also rubbished reports that the cash crunch had an overall negative impact on agriculture. Singh said farming communities in rural areas were showing the traits of the ‘nouveau riche’.
Mast, who is also the chief of BJP’s farmers’ wing Kisan Morcha, was speaking at a programme organised by the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), to draw up the report card of the NITI Aayog.
The demonetisation scheme left farmers without cash just ahead of sowing winter crops.
The government’s decision to scrap high-value currency sent wholesale vegetable prices crashing to rock-bottom levels, bringing misery to millions of farmers hoping for good returns for their produce after two successive drought years.
The steep fall forced farmers to discard their produce in states such as Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh as they could not recover even transportation costs.
The government unveiled several measures to ease the hardships of demonetisation on the poor, farmers and traders but the opposition says poor implementation of the policy – which is aimed at weeding out black money – has triggered chaos across the country.
While Centre has a minimum support price for grains, there is no such cushion for horticulture products, leading to farmers facing market vagaries.
Congress party, which has been at the forefront of attacks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA government on demonetisation that also brought several opposition parties together, has criticised demonetisation, saying the move had hurt farmers and the rural poor, and ravaged the agrarian economy.
Mast also did not seem to favour the suggestion that the money that has come into the banking network after demonetisation could be used to announce loan waivers for farmers. Policies should not be intended to make farmers dependent on doles and waive-offs, he said.
“Those farmers who had been repaying their loans did not get any waivers, but the ones who had not repaid anything got a reprieve, eventually, it was the banks that benefited,” he said.
NITI Aayog has come in for criticism by Sangh affiliates two years after it was formed for failing to emerge as a think tank to guide government policy. Though the planning arm of the government has released a report on how demonetisation has not impacted the agriculture sector, speakers at the conference disagreed with the assumption.
Ashwani Mahajan, the national co-convenor of the SJM, said it has failed to help formulate policy taking into consideration views from the ground.