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India's Madhya Pradesh state to waive up to $5.3 billion in farm debts

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MUMBAI (Reuters) – The new leader of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is to waive up to $5.3 billion (4.20 billion pounds) of farm loans, becoming the latest area to offer relief ahead of a national election next year as farmers reel from losses caused by falling crop prices.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party lost the central state to Congress last week dealing Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014 and boosting the opposition ahead of the vote next year.

Congress leader Kamal Nath, who became chief minister of the state on Monday, decided to write off farmers’ loans up to 200,000 rupees, according to a notification.

Farmers’ protests have been rising in past months due to the fall in crop prices and a rise in the cost of diesel and fertiliser.

Nearly 3.4 million farmers will benefit from the loan waiver, which is likely to cost between 350 billion rupees (£3.89 billion) to 380 billion rupees, Rajesh Rajora, the state’s principal secretary for agriculture, told Reuters.

The western state of Maharashtra and northern state of Uttar Pradesh, both ruled by the BJP, announced similar loan waivers last year.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Alison Williams)

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