Mumbai: Nearly two months after it was declared, the Rs34,022 crore farm loan waiver in Maharashtra is the subject of claims and doubts over its rollout. While the state government claims that nearly 1.4 million farmers have applied online, the opposition insists that not a single farmer has been given the relief.
Even the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ruling ally Shiv Sena has reiterated its demand for the names of the beneficiaries to be made public. It has joined the opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in pointing to the 34 farm suicides that have taken place in Marathwada region between 10 and 17 August, claiming they would not have happened had the waiver benefit reached farmers in time.
Maharashtra’s minister for co-operation Subhash Deshmukh said on Saturday that more than 1.6 million farmers had signed up for the scheme, of whom nearly 1.4 million have completed the online applications so far. “Since last week, each day between 1 and 1.25 lakh farmers are registering themselves at the facilitation centres. These centres will function till all farmers have made the registration and submitted forms," Deshmukh said.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis declared the farm loan waiver on 24 June. Exactly a month later on 24 July, the government claimed it had opened around 26,000 facilitation centres at government offices, some district co-operative banks, and credit co-operative societies, to help the farmers fill up online forms.
The opposition has claimed that not a single farmer in the state has actually received the benefit of the loan waiver. NCP state unit president Sunil Tatkare asked the government to “name only 10 farmers who have been provided the relief".
Maharashtra Congress general secretary and spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the biggest evidence the farm loan waiver was not working at all had come from the suicides in Marathwada in just one week of August. Sawant criticized Fadnavis for calling leaders of the farmers’ steering committee “anti-national" and a section of the media “dukandaar" (shopkeepers). Speaking at a recent BJP state executive committee meeting in Mumbai, Fadnavis lashed out at the steering committee members for “not allowing the district guardian ministers to hoist the national flag on 15 August" and asked the BJP cadres to ignore “dukandaar media".
Sawant said Fadnavis’s frustration over the lack of implementation of the loan waiver was showing in his “loss of a decent language and humility". The Congress spokesperson claimed that only 24,131 farmers in the state had been given Rs10,000 each as a special kharif season grant even though the announcement was made more than two months back. “Of the total 13.6 million farmers in the state, only 24,131 have received this help and the government has spent only Rs24 crore on this scheme.
Kishor Tiwari, Vidarbha-based farm activist and chief of the Farmers Mission Task Force set up by the state government, said that farmers in the state were facing a “financial drought." “The loan waiver is proving to be an obstacle for those farmers who want fresh credit. This year, formal lending institutions have disbursed only 55% of the amount they had given as crop credit last year till this time. They are refusing to give loans because of the loan waiver," Tiwari said.
Of the total 4.4 million farmers in Vidarbha and Marathwada who are eligible for Rs10,000 special grant, only 15,000 had so far been given the help, Tiwari said pointing out that the two regions vulnerable to drought and farm distress were suffering even after the loan waiver was announced.