Congress farm loan waivers Part III: Rajasthan cultivators demand inquiry into 'scam' in cooperative banks
Following reports of loan scams across cooperative banks in Dungarpur district of Rajasthan, farmers from several villages in Bharatpur and Dholpur districts approached the authorities
Gram Sewa Sahkari Samitis are under the lens
Hundreds of farmers appealed to the district collector to take legal action against Kishan Singh
Farmers learned of the alleged scam when they received messages about debt being waived by the government.
Editor's Note: The Congress rode to power in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan by promising to rid the state of farmers' issues. However, after securing a huge victory, the Congress' farm loan waiver schemes have thrown up several discrepancies, exposing a few major irregularities in previous BJP governments' agriculture debt adjustments. In this four-part series, we analyse the different problems related to the loan waiver schemes in the two states.
Bharatpur: Following reports of loan scams across cooperative banks in Dungarpur district of Rajasthan, farmers from several villages in Bharatpur and Dholpur districts approached the authorities with complaints about their names appearing on the list of beneficiaries of loan waivers — issued under the previous BJP regime — even though they never took loans. Gram Sewa Sahkari Samitis, which functions across villages as an arm of the district cooperative banks, and receive loans to be disbursed to farmers, are under the lens.
Sub-divisional magistrate of Deeg, a town in Bharatpur, Sher Singh Luhadiya seized the loan waiver records from Gram Sewa Sahkari Samitis under the tehsil and checked records of Deeg cooperative bank branch. A probe has been ordered into the reported irregularities, following which action will be taken against erring officials, Luhadiya said. Initial comparison of records of GSSS and cooperative banks showed improper record keeping, the sub-divisional magistrate added.
Around 390 farmers from Parmadra and Sehu villages in Deeg tehsil submitted to Luhadiya a complaint regarding irregularities in loan waivers which included a list of names that appeared on the government portal, but who'd never taken loans. Among farmers visiting from Sehu village — Jagvir Singh, Abhayveer Singh, Sanjay Singh, Manveer Singh, Mahavir Singh, Mahendra Singh, Fateh Singh, Hari Kishan — complained that while their names appeared on the list of beneficiaries, they never availed of loans from a cooperative bank.
Hundreds of farmers appealed to the district collector to take legal action against Kishan Singh, secretary of the cooperative bank branch, over the withdrawal of nearly Rs 1 crore from their bank accounts. Singh, a resident of Dhamaari village, is also the ration dealer of Dhamaari gram panchayat. Farmers said last year when their accounts were opened at the cooperative bank, Singh kept their signed passbooks and cheque books.
The farmers learned of the alleged scam when they received messages about debt being waived by the government. Upon approaching those who were digitally literate, the farmers realised that their details were on the government loan waiver portal. The family and friends of Rajpal Singh — a 70-year-old farmer from Naahra Chauth village in Dhamaari panchayat who died of a stroke after he was told that his name was on the loan waiver portal — blamed his demise on this development.
Sarv Sukh, 60, another farmer from Naahra Chauth, said farmers from the village who hadn't taken any loans approached e-mitra centre to get their bank account details after hearing of the purported scam. Dhamaari, Naahra Chauth, Suhera, and Nagla Harsukh are the villages under Dhamaari gram panchayat in Deeg tehsil. Confirming that farmers from Dhamaari gram panchayat submitted a written complaint against the cooperative bank secretary, Bharatpur district collector Aarushi Malik said, “I have directed related officials to begin probe into the matter.”
Cooperative banks, led by an apex branch in Jaipur, provide loans to GSSS in Rajasthan, which has 29 such banks that disburse loans to farmers. Bharatpur alone has 265 GSSS while Dholpur district has 84 GSSS. Each GSSS elects its chairperson, and chairpersons of all samitis elect the chairperson of the district cooperative bank. The BJP government under Vasundhara Raje’s leadership announced farm loan waiver up to Rs 50,000 for small and marginal farmers who had borrowed till 30 September, 2017.
The Congress government in Rajasthan that announced a loan waiver within days of the power shift cornered the BJP leadership over this purported scam. Former social welfare and empowerment minister Arun Chaturvedi said, “We are ready to face any inquiry over loan waiver” and added, “BJP government provided relief for farmers.” Farmer leader Nem Singh said cultivators from the villages of Panhori, Parmadra, Guhana, along with hundreds others from the district, are approaching secretaries to lodge complaints. “We are demanding that the government investigate,” Nem said. In Bharatpur, 73,218 farmers benefitting from the loan waiver scheme will be exempted of Rs 202.23 crore, while 23,576 farmers in Dholpur will be exempted of Rs 61.3 crore.
The author is a Bharatpur-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com
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