Mumbai: The first set of one million farmers in Maharashtra will get the benefit of loan waivers on 18 October, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced in Mumbai on Tuesday. The farmers are spread across all districts of Maharashtra and the amount on account of loan waiver will be deposited directly into their accounts on 18 October, Fadnavis said.
By 15 November, 80% of the eligible farmers would have received their loan waiver benefits, the chief minister assured.
Fadnavis declared a farm loan waiver on 24 June after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in Maharashtra came under intense pressure from the farm lobby and opposition parties after the announcement of a similar sop by the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.
The Maharashtra loan-waiver was initially estimated to cost Rs34,022 crore but Fadnavis said on Tuesday that the government was not yet in a position to make a precise estimate since several amendments have been made to the original scheme.
“The number of farmers to be covered under the scheme was estimated to be higher as per the initial estimates given by the banks but there has been a correction in these numbers. At the same time, more farmers have been added after we decided to implement the scheme from 2009 instead of 2012 as determined earlier. We will know the precise cost of loan waiver only after the full implementation," the chief minister said.
When the loan waiver was announced, the government said it would benefit nearly 8.9 million farmers, based on data shared by the State Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC). But bio-metric identification and online applications, together with the linkage between Aadhaar number and bank accounts, have helped the government identify at least 1.5 million accounts that belong to farmers who are not eligible for loan waiver. Asked if there would be action against these account holders, Fadnavis said the priority right now was delivering the loan waiver benefits to the deserving farmers. “We will come to that later," he said about these accounts.
Fadnavis justified the online application system to identify genuine farmers who met the criteria determined by the government. “The online database that we have prepared has helped banks and the government weed out fake accounts. Now even the nationalized banks have admitted that the initial estimate about the number of beneficiary accounts was not entirely correct," he said.
The online application system was launched on 24 July.
Fadnavis said the state had nearly 13.6 million farmers and more than 10 million of them had enrolled for the scheme by undergoing biometric identification. “That 10 million farmers enrolled themselves just in one-and-a-half month proves the online system was a big success," he said.
Of these 10 million farmers, 6 million had completed their online applications for loan waiver benefits, he said. As some applications mention more than one bank account held either by the farmer or his family members, these 6 million applications involve between 7.7 and 8 million accounts. “These accounts are now being checked and tallied with the biometric data and other information like ration card. The first set of one million farmers who will receive their benefits tomorrow have cleared all scrutiny," he said.
The chief minister claimed that the online system had helped the government and banks identify fake accounts and also avoid mistakes of omission and commission committed during the implementation of the 2008 and 2009 loan waiver schemes when “undeserving people got the benefits".
“In 2008 and 2009, it was the banks who benefited most from the loan waivers. This time,we are making sure that deserving farmers get the benefit," Fadnavis said.