Even as the farm loan waiver trend is fast spreading to other states, leading to a chorus of waivers across several states and aggravating concerns about state-level finances, Uttar Pradesh, where it all began, is all set to roll out the waiver scheme by next month. The state government’s empowered committee met in Lucknow on Monday to tie up the loose ends before the proposal is sent to the Cabinet for its approval. Usually, the state Cabinet, headed by chief minister Yogi Adityanath, meets every Tuesday, but since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in town, the issue would be put up in the next cabinet meeting, which is expected to be called tomorrow. According to insiders with the know of things, officials of various departments, including the state finance department, are burning the midnight oil to try out all the permutations and combination to offload the sudden fiscal burden of nearly Rs36,369 crore and are leaving no stone unturned in making the scheme implementable. Apart from the finance department, departments of institutional finance, agriculture, cooperative are working in coordination on this project.
“We are working all through the nights for weeks on end now, trying to cull loan amount figures of the farmers from as many as 40 banks, both nationalised as well as cooperative. We have to ensure that there is no duplication. We also have to ensure that all these bank accounts are linked to Aadhaar. If they aren’t, we are working on getting the linkage done before finalising on it. Not only that, we are also working closely with the National Informatics Centre, as the entire scheme would be executed online through a Web portal, which is being prepared by NIC,” said an official. The entire list of small and marginal beneficiary farmers, which is being made available by the banks, would be put up on the website, along with the names of the banks from which they have taken loans and the amount loaned.
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“The state government would make the desired Rs1 lakh loan amount available to the banks and as proof, the farmers would be given a certificate. These certificates would be distributed by the district magistrates by holding camps,” said the official. The empowered committee, which was given the responsibility to design and execute the farm loan waiver scheme consisted of eight members, headed by chief secretary Rahul Bhatnagar.
The farm loan waiver was a major pre-poll promise of the BJP and as the Yogi Adityanath government nears completion of 100 days in office this week, the chief minister wants that the scheme be ready and mentioned in its list of achievements within such a short time.
Interestingly, the state’s budget is also in the works currently and the finance department is working on how to offload the sudden fiscal burden of nearly Rs36,369 crore for the loan waiver along with another Rs34,000 crore needed for the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission recommendations. The state is now looking at an additional burden of a whopping Rs70,000 crore on the state’s coffers. It may be mentioned that UP has approximately 2.30 crore farmers, of which 92.5%, or 2.15 crore, are small and marginalised farmers. The Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, in its first Cabinet meeting, had decided to waive off crop loans worth Rs36,359 crore, which includes Rs30,729 crore for loans of up to Rs1 lakh of 2.15 crore small and marginal farmers and Rs5,630 crore for loans of 7 lakh farmers which had turned into NPAs. After UP’s announcement, the governments of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and now Karnataka have had to give in to populist demands and announce farm waivers of their own, giving rise to serious concerns on fiscal discipline.