India

Amitabh Bachchan pays off farmers' loans worth $500,000

Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan looks on during a commercial event in Mumbai on May 17, 2018. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Amitabh Bachchan is considered to be India's greatest actor

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan says he has cleared farmers' loans worth more than 40m rupees ($560,000; £436,000).

He wrote on his blog on Tuesday that he had "taken care" of 1,398 farmers by paying off their debt, adding that he felt a "sense of accomplishment".

All of the farmers are from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where Bachchan was born.

Tens of thousands of Indian farmers struggle with debt.

For decades now, the farming industry has been blighted by drought, the depletion of the water table, declining productivity and a lack of modernisation.

Farm suicides have been linked to these issues - at least 300,000 farmers have taken their lives since 1995.

Bachchan, who is 76, remains one of India's most popular and best-known actors.

He cleared loans that were owed to the government-owned Bank of India, which has issued a "one time settlement document and certificate", according to his blog post. He said that he had paid dues worth more than 40m rupees.

"I shall wish of course to give these settlements, these confirmations that their loans have been paid off, personally," Bachchan wrote.

Since it would difficult to bring all of the farmers to Mumbai city, where he lives, he said he had reserved a train coach to bring 70 of them to meet him to receive the bank documents.

They are expected to arrive on 26 November.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Half of India's population work on farms, but farming contributes only 15% to GDP

Earlier this year Bachchan paid off the loans of 350 farmers from Mumbai's Maharashtra state. Thousands of farmers in the state staged massive protests last year demanding loan waivers and better crop prices.

The veteran actor has also been involved in controversy in connection with farm land. In 2007, a court ruled that a 90,000 sq ft plot had been illegally allocated to him.

He faced fraud charges which were later withdrawn because he had abandoned his claim to the land.

Bachchan has acted in more than 190 films, and has also starred in Hollywood movies in recent years. He was also the host of Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and one of the most watched shows on Indian television.

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