Farmers in Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka heaved a sigh of relief when farm loan waivers were announced earlier this year. Months have passed by but lakhs of farmers are yet to get benefits of the assured loan waiver.
From waiver of 19 paise to a farmer in Uttar Pradesh to unearthing a million fake bank accounts in Maharashtra, the mess over farm loan waiver is real. "Forget the loan waiver, give us minimum support price", is now the demand by farmers.
Uttar Pradesh has begun disbursing farm loan waiver. While thousands of farmers stand to get a waiver for loans up to Rs 1 lakh, there have been multiple incidents of minuscule amounts, some as low as Re 1 or 19 paise, being waived off. The opposition has called it a mockery and an exercise to inflate the number of beneficiaries for loan waiver scheme. The Yogi Adityanath government has moved to disburse the first phase of farm loan waivers for small and marginal farmers at a cost of Rs 7,371 crore.
According to the Uttar Pradesh government's statistics, 1,193,224 small and marginal farmers stand to benefit out of phase one of loan waiver scheme. However, 4,814 farmers will receive loan waiver certificates for amounts between Rs 1 and Rs 100, some of them have received the certificates for amounts as small as 19 paise. While there are no doubts about lakhs of farmers getting actual relief, numbers as small as Rs 1.79 for a farmer in Etawah or 19 paise to one in Bhartana of the same district or Rs 10.37 waiver given to a farmer in Maudaha has come as a mockery of the distress.
"The loan waiver is a sham. Of what use is Rs 1 lakh loan waiver for a farmer who is drowning in a debt of Rs 5 or 10 lakh? We neither want your sympathies nor your waiver. Let us, the farmers, live a life of dignity. All we seek is competitive minimum support price. We are willing to pay taxes if the government is willing to offer an acceptable minimum support price for our produce," said Ayyakannu, a farmer who is leading the protests in New Delhi for the cause of farmers.
In Maharashtra, a state where technology was used to identify eligible beneficiaries for the scheme, the problem exists in a whole new avatar. On Tuesday, Maharashtra's revenue minister Chandrakant Patil said that the government had found at least 10 lakh fake bank accounts claiming to be those belonging to farmers. The Maharashtra government took to Aadhaar-linked identification tools to zero in on farmers who qualify for the loan waiver. "The software we use is helping us identify farmers who actually own agricultural land and have availed some loan. We have realized that more than 10 lakh bank accounts under farmers' names are fake. They were probably opened by banks or credit societies for siphoning off the loan amount," Chandrakant Patil said.
The government has come to a conclusion that accounts are fake based on their software's cross-verification analysis. The system requires detailed information for every account through which applications for loan waivers have been filed. Verification includes documents of land ownership or lease agreement, bank account statement etc. The minister added that the "expose" on fake accounts will bring down the actual estimate of farmers eligible for loan waiver from the initial 89 lakh. A massive Rs 34,000 crore is what the Maharashtra government announced as farm loan waiver scheme.
Tired of the red-tapism that follows every loan waiver announcement, farmers now seek relief from the hassles of disbursal. "Harassment, exploitation of farmers continues unabashedly simply because we are an unorganized sector. If this continues, the government has many challenges to face from within the farming community," warned Ayyakannu.