Kamal Nath government promised to waive farm loans

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Kamal Nath government promised to waive farm loans The ruling Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan is betting big on its farm debt-waiver schemes for gaining ground in the Lok Sabha polls. 

However, the status of implementation of the schemes, with lakhs of farmers still to get the benefits, could pose problems for the party that came to power in these states just four months ago, on a promise to waive farm loans. Congress leaders and people associated with implementing the schemes said they would fully meet the promise to waive farm loans. Congress leaders and people associated with implementing the schemes said they would fully meet the promise as soon as the election code of conduct is lifted. 

Except for Chhattisgarh, these states have not shown any interest in the Centre-funded PM KISAN scheme, which gives Rs 6,000 annually to small and marginal farmers. 

While Chhattisgarh has over 1lakh farmers on the list of beneficiaries under PM KISAN, the Madhya Pradesh government said it would focus on its own debt-waiver scheme rather than participating in the central programme. Rajasthan sent names of 1.27 lakh farmers but didn’t sign the fund-transfer order, which is mandatory for sending funds in any direct-benefit-transfer scheme. 

In Madhya Pradesh, where the Kamal Nath government promised to waive farm loans up to Rs 2 lakh taken till March 31, 2018, over 5.12 million farmers have registered. The government so far has waived loans of 2.48 million farmers — less than 50% of the total farmers registered. 

“So far, we have waived loans amounting to Rs 9,601 crore. Over 85% of the (2.48 million) farmers have received the debt waiver certificates also. We will service the remaining registered farmers after the code of conduct is lifted. We expect the amount to go up to Rs 45,000 crore,” said a senior government official. 

The scheme, which was announced soon after Kamal Nath had sworn in, took a couple of months for implementation due to the state’s poor fiscal health. 

“When we took over, the state government was reeling under debt of Rs 1.87 lakh crore. The situation is bad. But we are committed to keeping our promise. We have identified the beneficiaries and they will get the debt waiver certificate soon after the Lok Sabha elections,” said Congress national spokesperson Abhay Dubey. 

The situation in Chhattisgarh is a little better. There are around 1.86 million prospective beneficiaries in the state. Out of that, 1.41million farmers have taken loans worth a total of Rs 5,538 crore from cooperative banks and 1.79 lakh farmers from Regional Rural Banks. 

“So far we have waived loans worth Rs 3,000 crore benefitting 8.17 lakh farmers. The government will release the remaining Rs 2,538 crore in April, which will enable us to waive loans of another 6 lakh farmers,” said HK Nagdeo, managing director of Apex Bank, which is responsible for managing all the farm loans taken from cooperative banks in the state. There are around 1.79 lakh farmers who have taken loans worth Rs 1,223 crore from regional rural banks, out of which Rs 250 crore has been released while the remaining amount is likely to be settled in the next financial year. 

The director of the Chhattisgarh government’s Institutional Finance Department, Vinit Nandanwar, told ETthat loans taken from other scheduled commercial banks including nationalised banks were around Rs 4,000 crore, involving 2.74 lakh farmers. “We have received the data from banks. Now we are examining it. We will take necessary action as per our plan,” he said. 

In Rajasthan, the government has identified more than 2.19 million beneficiaries and so far has issued debt-waiver certificates to 1.68 million, waiving Rs 7,952 crore. The beneficiaries are given waivers only after biometric verification to rule out any duplication and forgery. 

“We had organised camps in the month of February where 2.19 million farmers applied for the debt-waiver scheme. We have authenticated 1.85 million beneficiaries out of which 1.68 million farmers have been issued the certificates. We will soon issue certificates to remaining farmers,” said Neeraj K Pawan, registrar of the cooperative department, the nodal agency for implementing this scheme.

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By BOA Bureau