The Maharashtra government is planning to come up with a fresh set of guidelines for an effective implementation of the loan waiver scheme for farmers, an official has said. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had last month announced the “historic” loan waiver of Rs 34,022 crore for farmers and subsequently laid down the eligibility criteria for availing it. Fadnavis earlier alleged that a “big scam” had occurred in Maharashtra after the then UPA government at the Centre wrote off debts in 2008, which, he said, deprived distressed peasants of the benefits intended for them.
Therefore, the state is now planning to frame guidelines so that the benefits of the loan waiver scheme reach the farmers in an effective manner, a senior state government official told PTI. “The guidelines will be about the basic definition of who would be the beneficiaries, calculating the outstanding amount, how to implement it and bringing various banks on the same platform for an effective implementation of the loan waiver,” he said.
The previous loan waiver scheme, introduced around nine years back, had flaws and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had given a critical report on it, he said. “The guidelines will provide the definition of a farmer, what type of loan can be considered under the waiver scheme and the definition of a nuclear family,” he said. “If a farmer and his wife have outstanding agricultural loans, the higher amount between the two debts would be considered for waiver. It is a very tedious task, but all the banks in the state have requested for a clarity on this,” the official said.
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In 2008, the Union government announced a loan waiver scheme but did not provide enough information or definition of a farmer or the eligibility criteria. Thus, the loans of some non-eligible farmers were also waived, he claimed. The CAG had later been critical of the loan waiver scheme which also put the reputation of banks and government officials at stake. Some bank officials and farmers are also facing legal action for the same, the official said.
Thus, the banks have now asked the state government to provide all the necessary information so that it is easier for them to categorise farmers as eligible or non-eligible, he said. The earlier UPA government had announced an over Rs 60,000 crore debt waiver for the agricultural sector in 2008. “The actual number of beneficiaries was also less than what it was announced earlier. Hence, this time the state has decided to avoid the previous mistakes,” the official said.
Last week, the government expanded the ambit of the loan waiver scheme to include even those farmers, who had taken loans after 2008. Earlier, the state’s loan waiver scheme, titled Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Sanman Yojana, covered only those farmers who have the outstanding debts between April 1, 2012 and June 30, 2016. Fadnavis also extended the date to repay overdue of loans taken by farmers in the year 2016-2017 and who are regular payees, from June 30, 2017 to July 31, 2017. There are 1.34 crore farmers in Maharashtra, as per the data of state agriculture department.