Maha farm loan waiver: Devendra Fadnavis must clear air on fudged data, come clean on conspiracy theories

Hundreds of names in the list of beneficiaries eligible for Maharashtra government’s Rs 34,000 crore farm loan waiver have the same Aadhaar numbers. Many names have been repeated and others have same account numbers.

Dinesh Unnikrishnan October 25, 2017 17:30:43 IST
Maha farm loan waiver: Devendra Fadnavis must clear air on fudged data, come clean on conspiracy theories

Hundreds of names in the list of beneficiaries eligible for Maharashtra government’s Rs 34,000 crore farm loan waiver have the same Aadhaar numbers. Many names have been repeated and others have same account numbers.

Clearly, the list has been compiled using names of non-existent bank account holders, likely with the intention of siphoning off the loan waiver money.

Maha farm loan waiver Devendra Fadnavis must clear air on fudged data come clean on conspiracy theories

File image of Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

Or is this a case of banks—under pressure to show that the government's loan waiver scheme is quickly fulfilled—compiling a fake list?

Who fudged the data?

First let’s understand how a loan waiver programme typically works: When a government announces a loan waiver, the State Level Banking Committees (SLBCs), a lobby of banks, are tasked to collect the details of eligible farmers from individual banks. Depending on the waiver structure, these lenders may or may not include cooperative banks. In the case of Maharashtra, the list of lenders included cooperative banks as well.

Once the SLBC gets this list, the same is passed on to the state government for final assessment and allocation of the loan waiver amount. In the case of Maharashtra waiver, this process was followed and the list with fake names (or erroneous ones) was passed on to the government without the facts being checked, either intentionally with the connivance of bank officers or due to sheer laxity on their part.

The only difference here is that farmers also had an option to make their entries online. Here, the banks claimed that these entries did not match up with their data. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis called a meeting on Wednesday to ascertain how this mess occurred.

In fact, this isn’t the first time a farm loan waiver scheme has run into a major roadblock. Take the Rs 36,000 crore scheme implemented in Uttar Pradesh. Many farmers complained that they didn't get what they were promised. Some farmers said they got loan waivers as miniscule as 35 paise. The struggle to implement and execute the scheme will lead to political trouble for the Maharashtra government as distressed farmers could begin a fresh round of protests.

Even during the roll out of the Rs 70,000 crore loan waiver scheme sponsored by the Congress-led UPA regime in 2008, there were reports of needy farmers not  benefiting from the programme.

In this case, the fudged list of beneficiaries seems to be the handiwork of those who want to divert money intended to benefit poor farmers.

Are bankers involved?

Or is a nexus of shadowy middlemen orchestrating the entire affair?

Only a thorough probe will provide answers.

After committing to waiving off the loans of poor farmers, it is the responsibility of the Fadnavis government to find out how banks ended up with a fake list of farmers, quickly identify and punish the guilty.

The government also needs to quickly come up with ways to deliver what they promised to the needy.

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