Amidst the various attempts being made to corner the Central government on the farmers’ issue, Ashok Gehlot, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, has written a letter to the Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi, questioning the lack of support to farmers and the state government when it comes to waiving off loans of farmers.
Here are various claims of Ashok Gehlot with regard to farm loan waiver and there are certain facts emerged from media reports that counter his claims.
₹7.95 lakh crore of industrial loans have been written off by banks under the Modi government; however, the Modi government has not given any such waivers for farmers.
₹7.95 lakh crore write offs have indeed been given for public sector banks, as per an RTI, as was reported on December 21, 2020. However, the premise on which Mr. Gehlot tries to corner the Modi government in itself is faulty by design.
Write-offs essentially are a clean-up of a bank’s audit books. It does not mean that the borrowers are no more liable to pay their outstanding loans to the banks. In contrast, waivers free the borrower from the liability to pay. Comparing apples and oranges by a party that claims to have managed the economy better than the Modi government era and boasts of great finance ministers of the past is somewhat naïve.
- Since 2018, 20.56 lakh farmers have received a loan waiver in Rajasthan that totals to ₹20,000 crore. Of this, the state government waived off ₹14,000 crore while the Centre waived off ₹6,000 crore.
- He has also urged that loans for farmers taken from Nationalised, Commercial and Land Development Banks be waived off to provide relief to farmers.
Ashok Gehlot’s government after coming to power in 2018 announced a loan waiver of up to ₹2 lakh promptly after he assumed charge of the CMO. The scheme was launched but the devil lies in the details.
Not all farmers were covered under the scheme. As per the official document for the scheme, a copy of which is with the TTP, loan waivers worth ₹50,000 would be granted. The document also clarifies that the in case the loan amount exceeds ₹50,000, the remainder would have to be paid in full. Upon payment, a certificate will be issued which would be the only document making a farmer eligible for loans in the future.
The Loan Waiver Application department’s portal to submit applications claims that over 20 lakh farmers have been provided waivers. However, there is more to it than meets the eye. Several reports have come up across the entire state by popular news portals claim that a major scam had ensued, whereby money was swindled using ghost beneficiaries, proxy accounts and even exaggerated amounts being paid to unverified beneficiaries.
Curiously, in just over two years, Mr. Gehlot has started to dodge questions regarding the promised loan waivers which has perpetuated a limbo-like state for the scheme. The CM and Rajasthan government have also gone ahead and accused the central government of not cooperating for the waivers due to which the loans from nationalised banks could not be waived off. In fact, these scams are alleged to have been perpetrated through welfare organisations such as LAMPS (Large Multipurpose Agricultural Societies), FSS etc.
UPA government had provided ₹72,000 crore loan waiver to farmers unlike the present NDA government.
If Mr Gehlot really wants to use waivers as a yardstick, one must point out that in contrast to the UPA which only gave a loan waiver of ₹72,000 crore to farmers, the Modi government is directly transferring over ₹75,000 crore per year to farmers under PM-KISAN.
Also, on the subject of UPA’s waiver, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s (CAG’s) scathing remarks in its performance audit of the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008 are worth reading. In its audit, the CAG had found several deficiencies and malpractices taking place, raising questions on who exactly benefited from the so-called waiver:
- As many as 13.5% of accounts audited though eligible to receive debt waiver benefits under the scheme, were not considered by the lending institutions while preparing the list of eligible farmers. In addition, farmers were denied benefits even though their names appeared in the list of beneficiaries.
- About 8.5% of the beneficiaries audited were not eligible for debt waiver. A number of these beneficiaries took loans for non-agricultural purposes or their loans did not meet eligibility conditions.
- In almost 6% of the audited accounts, farmers were not extended relief in accordance with their entitlements. In about 67% of the accounts, undue benefits were extended. On the other hand, in the remaining cases, farmers were deprived of their rightful benefits.
- In 34.2% of the accounts verified, there was no proof that lending institutions had issued certificates to farmers for receiving debt waivers nor that acknowledgment letters had been obtained from them.
- According to the scheme guidelines, only agricultural loans disbursed directly to farmers by the lending institutions were eligible for reimbursement. Agricultural loans extended by banks to micro finance institutions (MFIs) were not eligible for reimbursement.
- There was prima facie evidence of tampering, over-writing and alteration of records in 2,824 cases.
More than 40 farmers have died since the farmer agitations have started.
The Hindu reported All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS)’s claim on December 19, 2020 that 33 farmers had lost their lives during the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the Centre’s agriculture marketing laws, over the past three weeks.
However, it must be pointed out that the way in which these people are being labelled martyrs deserves scrutiny. None of the deaths have anything to do with police assault/brutality or government heavy handedness. As The Federal had reported, 11 died due to heart attack, four in road accidents and one due to the winter chill of the national capital. The first death was reported on November 24 when Kahan Singh, a farmer and an activist of the Bhartiya Kisaan Union, was hit by a car while covering tractor-trailers with waterproof tarpaulin in Mehalkalan town of Barnala district. The Bhartiya Kisaan Union declared him “the first martyr of the Delhi morcha”.
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