The issue of loan waiver of farmers in Uttar Pradesh will be on top of the agenda when Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath chairs the first cabinet meeting of his government tomorrow.
Other key issues in the BJP's poll manifesto, like electricity in rural areas and an ordinance on slaughterhouses, are also expected to be taken up during the meeting tomorrow.
State Agriculture Minister Surya Pratap Shahi told India TV that a proposal prepared for farm loan waiver will be presented before the cabinet at its first meeting. Shahi said a list of 1.5 crore farmers has been prepared. He said the work to prepare the list of beneficiaries started immediately after the formation of the government.
The promise to waive off the farm loan was one of the biggest pre-poll promises that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had made during the run up to the UP Assembly elections which it won with record mandate. The party, in its election manifesto titled Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra', had promised to waive the loans of small and marginal farmers.
Though state Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh maintained that the agenda of the meeting was yet to be finalised, sources said the government was likely to take a decision on waiving the loans of small and marginal farmers.
Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said the promises made in the BJP's manifesto for the just-concluded state Assembly polls will be on the agenda of the Adityanath government's first cabinet meeting.
"Decisions on a number of important issues will be taken at the cabinet meeting on April 4. The focus will be on honouring the promises made in the party's manifesto," he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had said in his campaign speeches that writing off farm loans would be among the foremost tasks of the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.
Although there is no Constitutional compulsion of convening the first cabinet meeting within a certain period, traditionally the ruling party has held it within a week or so of forming the government.
The Adityanath government was sworn-in on March 19 and its first cabinet meeting will be held tomorrow, over a fortnight after the swearing-in ceremony.
According to officials, there are around 2.30 crore farmers in Uttar Pradesh of whom, around 2.15 crore fall in the 'small and marginal' category.
They had suffered losses due to natural calamities in the recent past and were unable to repay loans amounting to about Rs 62,000 crore.
They also said that it could be difficult to handle the burden of loan waiver in a single financial year and that was one of the reasons to put the cabinet meeting on hold till a way was found to honour the prime minister's poll promise that the BJP government would take a decision on farm loan waiver at its first cabinet meeting.
As the figure is huge, the Uttar Pradesh government is mulling various options, including raising loans, to honour the saffron party's commitment to waive the loans of small and marginal farmers.
A state finance department spokesman said Finance Minister Rajesh Agarwal has already started deliberations with senior officials of his department in this regard.
"Such decisions are not taken in haste. I can assure (you) that a decision will be taken and a large number of farmers will benefit from it," Shahi had told PTI earlier.
The government will have to pay the banks to waive the loans of small and marginal farmers and for that, it will have to either seek funds from the Centre or raise loans on its own, the spokesman said.
Sources in the government said it would be difficult to handle the burden of loan waiver in a single financial year.
They added that it was one of the reasons for putting the cabinet meeting on hold till some way was found to honour the prime minister's poll promise that the BJP government would take a decision on farmers' loan waiver at its first cabinet meeting.
Some officers were of the opinion that a decision in this regard could be taken and a policy formulated later, but the chief minister insisted that the decision be made once the policy was clear, so that there were no hurdles.
Following this, senior officers were engaged in working on various options before the matter could be placed before the cabinet.
Besides farm loan waiver, the cabinet is likely to take important decisions regarding legalising slaughterhouses, licenses of meat-sellers, extending more help to the water-scarce Bundelkhand region and sorting out the problems related to Purvanchal -- issues mentioned in BJP's manifesto.