Three farmers committed suicide in a single day in Punjab as recently as October 1. A debt-ridden farmer in Karnataka's Kalburgi taluk was found hanging dead on September 30. A farmer from Yavatmal of Maharashtra hung himself after holding Minister Narendra Modi government and debts as the reason. Incidentally, all these farmers hail from states that announced big farm loan waiver scheme. Months after the announcement, the benefits are yet to reach the farmers.
While in some cases the scheme is too little, in other cases it is too late. Despite assurances by the government to waive off part of farm loans, farmer suicides continue unabated. The delay in disbursing the loans seems to be a primary reason.
Three months since announcement, Karnataka yet to release funds
In Karnataka, the Rabi season has already begun with abundant rains bringing cheer. For farmers growing in debt, however, the misery continues. The state government is yet to release a single rupee of the Rs 8,165 crore crop loan waiver.
Farmers in Karnataka are caught between the devil and the deep sea. On one hand, the government is yet to release funds to the banks and cooperative societies to ensure that fresh loans are available and balance sheets are cleared. On the other, farmers willing to repay the loans themselves are being turned away by banks awaiting government funds to waive current loans. In the bargain, farmers are losing out on fresh loans for Rabi crops
Farmer suicides continue unabated in Punjab
The assurance of a loan wavier came months ago but the Punjab cabinet cleared the notification for the same only in September. Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh in June announced the waiver that aimed at benefiting 10.25 lakh farmers, including 8.75 lakh farmers up to 5 acres with Rs 2 lakh loan waiver. Months down the line, farmer suicides continue to haunt Punjab- India's food bowl.
A high-level panel headed by NITI Aayog advisor Tajamul Haque has suggested that the center should help Punjab government with financial aid to farmers. The panel has pegged accumulated an institutional debt of the state's farmers as on March 31 this year at Rs 73,772 crore of which Rs 59,621 crore of crop loan and Rs 14,151 crore of the term loan. The total loan works out at Rs 1,20,000 crore, since 39 per cent debt belongs to the informal category, including moneylenders, according to the panel. The numbers are overwhelming but the help that is coming the farmers' way is very less. Yet again, not a single rupee has been released to the farmers from the state.
The farm loan mess in Maharashtra
After a huge protest from farmers, the Maharashtra government announced a farm loan waiver scheme worth Rs 34,000 crore. In an attempt to ensure that the scheme only benefits those who are in need and eligible, the state government undertook online registration and direct disbursal method. The method has only resulted in a mess. "Reading between the lines of a farm loan waiver is very important. It comes with terms and conditions and these conditions become detrimental for the farmer. Loan waiver schemes are an eyewash and at best, a temporary fix to a larger problem. We need to look at long-term solutions," Devinder Sharma, agricultural researcher, and activist told OneIndia.
Maharashtra has a cap of Rs 1.5 lakh for the waiver and leaves out many who need relief. 57 lakh applications have been filed online so far after the extension of the deadline. The number is 31 lakhs less than Fadnavis' claim of the scheme helping 89 lakh beneficiaries. With many conditions and criteria for eligibility, not a single farmer has received any replief from the government that boasted of a 'mammoth relief package'. Seasons are rolling and balance sheets are becoming heavier but farmers in the country are receiving no relief.
Even in states like Uttar Pradesh where the process of waiving loans have started, farmers are being mocked with waiver as low as 1 paise despite having loans of lakhs.