Mumbai: Devendra Fadnavis was initially reluctant to go for a farm loan waiver, but now that it’s a reality, the Maharashtra chief minister wants to ensure it goes without a hitch and benefits the right persons.

The state government will launch a mobile app for farmers to apply online for the waiver and has opened nearly 26,000 facilitation centres to help them fill up the forms, Fadnavis told the legislative assembly on Thursday. The physical forms will be accepted with biometric identification. These measures, he said, are being taken to ensure that the irregularities reported in the 2008 and 2009 loan waivers do not repeat.

Fadnavis was responding to a discussion on the state government’s Rs34,022 crore farm loan waiver announced in June. Responding to the opposition’s criticism that the application form was an unnecessary formality, Fadnavis said the form was a simple two-page document that asked farmers to fill up basic information like name, Aadhaar number, PAN number (if available), public provident fund number (if available), mobile number, and date of birth.

“It is a simple form that anybody could fill up. In fact, I appeal to all the legislators to help farmers in your constituencies fill up these forms. We are launching a mobile application in two-three days to help farmers submit this form from their mobiles. At nearly 26,000 facilitation centres working across the state, we have instructed officials to accept even offline forms from farmers with their biometric identification," Fadnavis said.

The chief minister said farmers whose loans were restructured in 2016 would be covered under the waiver up to a cap of Rs1.5 lakh. He, however, refused to grant a blanket loan waiver saying it would ruin the banking system and damage credit culture.

Fadnavis quoted the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the implementation of the farm loan waiver schemes declared in 2008 and 2009 by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments at the Centre and in the state respectively. “The CAG found that in a small sample size of farmers, 14% of the deserving farmers never got any benefits of these loan waivers and 9% ineligible farmers got the benefits they did not deserve.

“Rs164 crore was wrongfully disbursed to non-financial and banking entities and even personal loans, vehicle loans, commercial loans taken for shops and purchase of land were waived. These were not loans taken by the farmers and yet, they got written off. The CAG scrutinised 2,000 cases and discovered irregularities to the tune of crores of rupees. Some deserving farmers did not get a single rupee waived while in some cases even loans worth Rs60 lakh were waived," Fadnavis said.

The state government has not been able to identify the beneficiaries of the 2009 loan waiver, he said, stressing the need for a fool-proof mechanism to implement the latest scheme. “Also, the 2009 loan waiver gave benefits worth Rs286 crore only in the farm suicide affected districts of Vidarbha, but waived Rs208 crore in Mumbai district itself," he said.

Fadnavis, however, admitted that the scheme to give Rs10,000 as special loan for the Kharif season had failed to achieve the desired results even though the state government had issued a guarantee for Rs3000 crore loans as per the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) directions. He blamed the district central co-operative banks for not cooperating for the scheme.

He countered the opposition’s claim that the remunerative prices of agriculture produce had gone down during the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule. “On the contrary, prices of 80% of the farm produce have actually gone up in the last three years as compared to the last two years of your rule. The prices of 20% of the farm produce have seen steep fluctuations," he said.