Yavatmal: The Vidarbha region in Maharashtra has been in the news for a few years because of a spate of farmer suicides. To understand the impact of the government’s populist farm loan waiver scheme in this region, Mint has partnered with Dilasa, a non-governmental organization that works in rural Maharashtra. Dilasa’s volunteers will, in the run-up to the deadline of 30 June, visit farmers, banks and local administrators in Vidarbha’s Yavatmal district and file daily reports on the waiver scheme. This is Day 3.
Each passing day is adding to the grief of bankers and farmers. Fresh clarifications and new guidelines are coming hard and fast, taking their toll on bank staff who are already on a tight deadline.
A farmer who was in yesterday, is disqualified today because of a new circular. Bankers say that in some cases they had to redraw the list of beneficiaries three times. This is creating new complications, magnifying the confusion and increasing the chances of introducing errors.
“We made a list of those who qualify for debt waiver. Then we remade it. And then re-remade it all over again. There is a new circular every day. Our staff has been working on this list for the past one month,” said Gangadhar Ramrao Jambhule, branch manager, Bank of Maharashtra in Yavatmal’s Ghatanji taluka.
“These problems would not have arisen had the government included all the farmers in the scheme,” said Arvind Shamrao Khade of Yavatmal Urban Bank.
With so much confusion in the air, no one knows for sure when the farmers will actually get the money.
Last year, the government passed an order to regularize outstanding dues of drought-affected farmers in Vidarbha. Farmers were given an additional three years to repay outstanding dues and offered the option to make part-payment and promised new loans, which were to be disbursed in May 2007. But the implementation was delayed by three months and farmers received the money only by October. By that time, cotton—the main crop of this region—had been harvested.
Many farmers are apprehensive of a delay in distribution of funds this time too.
“I was getting late for sowing. In desperation, I approached our local moneylender. He has given me the money, but at 25% rate of interest,” said Pundalikarao Bute. “Before October, I need to buy fertilizers, pay labourers employed on my farm and purchase insecticide. I will need money for all this. If the loan is delayed, I would have to go back to the moneylender, who will then charge an even higher interest rate.”
Bute said it has become difficult to seek loans from moneylenders after Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister, R.R.Patil, directed the police to deal strictly with private moneylenders who were harassing debtors and levying a huge interest on the loans. “Moneylenders are now scared. Those who are still in business deal with farmers in secret. They have pushed up the interest rates even further,” Bute said.
Arvind Lakshman Mohalle has been told by bank officials that he figures on the list of beneficiaries. But he doesn’t know whether to celebrate this news. “I have been told that I am a beneficiary. Twenty-five per cent of my outstanding dues will be waived off. But that will happen only after I pay up the remaining 75% of my debt. Where will I get this money?”
His neighbour Bandu Manikrao Bobade says the package is good, but he can’t figure out why it “differentiates between poor farmers”.