Banks in Maharashtra, both national and cooperative, did derail Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' ambitious plan to make the Rs 34,000 core farm loan waiver pilferage-proof by linking disbursals to Aadhaar numbers.
Firstpost had run a series of investigative reports highlighting how banks turned in such corrupted list of beneficiaries and their Aadhaar numbers that the entire disbursal mechanism collapsed. This caused needless delay in disbursals and put enormous pressure on the government to speed up the process, which they did by abandoning the Aadhaar-linkage.
Confirmation of this came Thursday when the Maharashtra government accepted a long standing demand of the Opposition as well as the BJP's ally Shiv Sena, and released the full list of beneficiaries of the state's farm loan waiver scheme to all 386 state MLAs and MLCs.
Interestingly, the list was given in the form of a pen drive handed out to each legislator, rather than being uploaded on the state government's Aaple Sarkar portal.
The pen drive was handed over by state co-operation minister Subhash Deshmukh.
What's more, the list makes no mention of the Aadhaar numbers of the beneficiaries, although Aadhaar was stated to be a "primary and very major match parameter" (as the state's IT secretary SVR Srinivas told Firstpost). The list has other important columns such as district name, taluka, village, farmer's name, bank account number and loan amount. It also has a column on whether the farmer has applied for the full loan waiver or for an incentive. (As part of the scheme, farmers who repaid their loans within a stipulated time are paid an incentive amount of up to Rs 25,000.)
Firstpost has accessed the pen drive containing the entire list of farmers who are beneficiaries of the scheme.
The BJP-led government in Maharashtra announced its historic farm loan waiver scheme — titled the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana — on 22 June, 2017. The scheme was originally intended to benefit 89 lakh farmers. Chief Minister Fadnavis had estimated that the burden on the state exchequer on account of the scheme would be Rs 34,022 crore.
However, the scheme has been hobbled by technical glitches, mismatches in data and tussles in the bureaucracy.
As per the data presented by Deshmukh on Thursday, an amount of Rs 13,580 crore has been disbursed to 35.32 lakh farmers in their respective accounts till date. About 77 lakh farmers applied under the scheme in all, according to government numbers. Out of these, 55.02 lakh farmers were found to be eligible for receiving benefits of the scheme as per its stated parameters. The government approved 46.52 lakh farmers as primary beneficiaries of the scheme. Loan waiver amounts and incentive amounts of these farmers were given by the government to 63 banks. These banks include nationalised, private and district central co-operative ones. Out of the 46.52 lakh farmers, 30.38 lakh applied for the full loan waiver, while 16.14 lakh applied for the incentive amount.
Till date, the co-operation department has disbursed an amount of Rs 13580 crore into accounts of 35.32 lakhs farmers, said Deshmukh.
Speaking to Firstpost, the minister for co-operation said, "If we were to print the entire list of beneficiaries, it would run into 75,000 pages. So as an environmentally friendly measure, we gave the list to MLAs and MLCs in the form of a pen drive. The list is in English, but very soon, we will also provide the information in Marathi."
When asked why the government did not upload the list on the Aaple Sarkar portal, Deshmukh said, "In the last six months, Opposition parties have demanded the list of beneficiaries of the farm loan waiver on several occasions. Therefore, we have provided this list on a pen drive. Afterwards, we will upload the whole list online. We did not do anything which was wrong or illegal. Our actions were in the interest of transparency. The real beneficiaries know what the status is as to the disbursal of the amount to them."
Speaking about the delay in disbursing the waiver amounts, Deshmukh said, "In 2008-09, it took 18 months to disburse the loan amount. We did it in six months, and disbursed the amounts to the real beneficiaries.
A senior state bureaucrat confirmed to Firstpost that the co-operation department does not want to upload the list on the website as there are fears of technical glitches in displaying data, due to which discrepancies in the list may crop up. This may be a problem for the government as the Budget session is going on, the bureaucrat said.
Former Maharashtra chief minister Prithivraj Chavan slammed the state government, saying, "Devendra Fadnavis keeps harping on digitisation. Considering this, why has the entire list not been uploaded on the website? If they can give the list to us in the form of an excel sheet, why can they not upload it in the public domain?"
Senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Jayant Patil also said that the government should upload the list on its website. "The fact that the government is not doing so is suspicious. It suggests that it is trying to hide information from the farmers. As per my information, the government paid Rs 20 per entry to the Mahaonline company. This means that it would have paid the company Rs 9.30 crore for 46.52 entries. It is very unfortunate that the stated beneficiaries of the scheme, which were initially supposed to be 89 lakh, came down by 55 lakh.
Shiv Sena MLC Anil Parab said, "After Uddhav Thackeray repeated asked the government to give us the list, the government has accepted our demand. However, we do not understand why they gave it to us in a pen drive. If farmers wish to see their names on the list, then where will they go? We demand that the list should be uploaded on the website before the end of the Budget session."
Ajit Navale, general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, said, "The farmers were promised a loan waiver package of Rs 34,000 crore by the Fadnavis government. However, in reality, a much smaller amount has been deposited in the farmers' accounts."
Following are some the reports in Firstpost's series on the loan waiver—
Maharashtra govt's distribution of farm loan waiver beneficiaries' list to legislators shows banks derailed plan to make scheme pilferage-proof
Maharashtra farmers' march updates: Aaditya Thackeray meets protesters, pledges Shiv Sena support
Maharashtra farmers' protest: Women agitators share their stories of long and tedious struggle