Over 4.5 million Maharashtra farmers enrol for farm loan waiver
Mumbai: Even as opposition parties in Maharashtra continue to criticize the online procedure to identify the beneficiaries of farm loan waiver, farmers themselves have responded in large numbers to the initiative. By 30 August, more than 4.5 million farmers in the state had enrolled for the scheme and nearly 3.9 million of them had submitted their online applications for the loan waiver.
The Maharashtra government, which in June this year rolled out a Rs34,022 crore farm loan waiver, has set 15 September as the deadline to submit forms, according to minister for cooperation Subhash Deshmukh. The department of cooperation is implementing the loan waiver scheme.
Of the total 13.6 million farmers in the state, the Maharashtra government is targeting nearly 9 million for the benefits of the loan waiver. “Since 4.5 million farmers have enrolled, we have reached the halfway mark. There are complaints about the online system breaking down at some places and we are addressing those complaints. We expect the number of applications to increase up to 9 million or even more by 15 September,” said a senior cooperation department official requesting anonymity. The government has said that the actual benefits of loan waiver in the form of direct pay-out will start getting deposited in the farmers’ accounts from 1 October.
The online system was started on 24 July, one month after the loan waiver was announced. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had said that the state government is using the model developed by the Andhra Pradesh government to identify the deserving beneficiaries of loan waiver. Around 26,000 facilitation centres have been opened at government offices, district cooperative banks, and some public sector banks, to help farmers file the online applications. Farmers have to fill up a questionnaire mentioning their personal details like Aadhaar and bank account numbers to help the government establish their identity and determine their eligibility.
“What we are doing is link a farmer to his bank accounts using his Aadhaar number. From the bank accounts we can access data about his loan and that helps us determine whether he is eligible for a full loan waiver up to a ceiling of Rs1.5 lakh or one-time settlement or assistance of Rs25,000. The big takeaway of this system is that the entire data is being recorded online and that would help the government prepare a database that can be used in future as the benchmark,” said the official pointing out that the Maharashtra government had no such database of farmers supposedly benefitted by the 2008 loan waiver declared by the then United Progressive Alliance government and the 2009 scheme announced by the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government in the state.
Kishore Tiwari, a Vidarbha-based farm activist and head of the government-appointed Vasantrao Naik Farmers’ Mission, said farmers in remote parts of Vidarbha and Marathwada are finding it difficult to file online applications. “The SETU centres of the government at some places are even exploiting farmers by charging them for the online forms. Farmers are also complaining that they have to make several rounds of government offices to file the forms,” Tiwari said.
He has also demanded that the deadline of 15 September be extended to help all eligible farmers enrol themselves.