Maharashtra: 67 lakh farmers in final list for loan waiver

“The final list of farmers for the loan waiver, along with accounts provided by the State Level Bankers Committee to us stands at 67 lakh,” said a highly placed source in the government.

Picture for representational purpose

The state government’s loan waiver scheme will cover 67 lakh farmers — as per the final list furnished by the State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) — which is around three lakh less than the number of farmers who benefited from the loan waiver during the Congress-NCP regime in 2008-09. This has raised questions on whether the previous government had extended the waiver to non-deserving farmers as well. Some senior government officials said it should be a matter of investigation. “The final list of farmers for the loan waiver, along with accounts provided by the State Level Bankers Committee to us stands at 67 lakh,” said a highly placed source in the government.

Officials in the department of information and technology, and the department of cooperation and marketing raised questions over the loan waiver undertaken in 2008 and 2009. A senior official involved in the loan waiver process said, “If we have to provide loan waiver to 67 lakh farmers in 2017, how could 70 lakh farmers qualify for loan waiver in 2008-09.” Arguing that the loan waiver during the Congress-NCP rule was restricted to farmers with a land holding of less than five acres, and hence covered less farmers than the present waiver, he said the matter would have to be probed to streamline the system.

A senior official said, “The loan waiver guidelines issued by the Devendra Fadnavis government caters to a larger segment of farmers.

The loan waiver up to Rs 1.5 lakh is being given to farmers irrespective of size of land holding. Also, farmers who regularly repaid loans are being considered for an incentive of Rs 25,000. Thus, compared to the Congress-NCP government, the Fadnavis government’s loan waiver is more expansive. Yet, validated farmers do not exceed 67 lakh. The Congress-NCP extended loans to 70 lakh farmers, which needs to be probed.”

Sources said that learning from the loan waiver exercise both in the past and the present, the Maharashtra government has urged the Centre to bring some reforms, both in financial institutions and nodal bank NABARD, to bring greater accountability and transparency in the process of crop loan disbursement from 2018-19 onwards.

An official in the department of cooperation and marketing, who did not wish to be named, said, “The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), which conducted a sample study of 8,000 loan waivers (2008-09), had found wrongdoing and rampant misuse of funds. We are still in the process of recovering Rs 100 crore out of a total Rs 150 crore which came to light.”

Sources said the loan waiver amount (2017) to 67 lakh farmers was likely to exceed Rs 22,000 crore. In 2008-09, the total loan waiver to 70 lakh farmers was Rs 10,918 crore. “In 2008, the UPA government at the Centre extended a loan waiver of Rs 6,910 crore to 36 lakh farmers in Maharashtra. In 2009, the Congress-NCP government gave a loan waiver of Rs 4,008 crore to 34 lakh farmers,” said an official.

If the Congress-NCP extended loan waiver to 70 lakh farmers, why does it not reflect in the list provided by the SLBC, officials wondered. They asked as to why the SLBC, which had submitted an original list of 94 lakh farmers for loan waiver, revised it to 89 lakh within a fortnight, and now to 67 lakh. Post the loan waiver, 44 lakh more farmers would qualify for crop loan. They had not been eligible since 2012, as they had not cleared their loans.

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