Maharashtra: Fadnavis asks banks to start depositing farm loan waiver benefits
Mumbai: Government departments and banks must start depositing from Thursday the benefits of farm loan waivers into the bank accounts of those farmers who have already cleared official scrutiny, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis directed on Wednesday.
Maharashtra’s information technology department, which is working with the department of co-operation to implement the loan waiver, has come across duplicate bank accounts and Aadhaar numbers in the first list of around 1 million farmers submitted by the State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC).
Ironically, this was supposed to have been a list of the first set of eligible farmers who, according to Fadnavis himself, had cleared all checks, and who were supposed to have the benefits deposited directly into their bank accounts on 18 October. But a combination of errors and data duplication, “bogus” Aadhaar numbers, and Diwali holidays hampered the supposedly grand inauguration of the scheme, according to a senior IT department official who requested anonymity.
At a meeting of SLBC members, district co-operative banks and the departments of co-operation and IT on Wednesday, Fadnavis directed the banks which had submitted the data and government officials to sort out discrepancies such as duplicate account and Aadhaar numbers by coordinating with each other.
The chief minister asked each bank to depute technical staff to work with the departments of information technology and co-operation to sort out the problems and clear the names of the farmers. He also asked the IT department to deploy staff at banks headquartered in Pune to sort out the problems at the local level.
“The chief minister reiterated the government’s intent to make sure that only the eligible farmers get the benefit. The delay is better than delivering the benefit to someone who does not deserve it,” said a senior government official who attended the meeting, when asked about the delay and who requested anonymity.
This official said the implementation of the farm loan waiver was “a demonstration of how a government scheme should be implemented and beneficiaries targeted”. “We take (the discovery of) these discrepancies, technical or otherwise, in the data as achievements because we insisted all along on a transparent and technology-backed implementation. If discrepancies have been bared even when farmers were asked to submit online applications quoting their Aadhaar and bank account numbers, it means this was always the right approach. Imagine the extent of discrepancies earlier when such schemes were declared and when no eligibility checks were carried out,” the official said.
More than 10 million of Maharashtra’s 13.6 million farmers enrolled for the loan waiver scheme out of which nearly 6 million submitted their online applications. The state government declared a Rs34,022 crore loan waiver on 24 June and started the online application system exactly a month later.
The SLBC had initially submitted unverified number of 8.9 million farmers as likely beneficiaries but around 1.5 million of these names were weeded out after the department of co-operation and banks discovered that they did not meet the eligibility criteria. The Maharashtra government has released the first tranche of Rs4,000 crore to the banks to process the applications of the first set of 1 million farmers.