Maharashtra loan waiver muddle: Devendra Fadnavis has misled farmers, Sharad Pawar tells Firstpost

"Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis believes that loan waivers only help banks and that most cooperative banks are controlled by the NCP and Congress."

According to former chief minister and NCP president Sharad Pawar, this totally 'baseless allegation' reflects Fadnavis' apparent immaturity. "The chief minister and his cabinet colleagues blame nationalised banks for giving inaccurate data. And these nationalised banks are also controlled by the NCP and Congress, according to him. This is just a case of passing the buck. Whatever he says is baseless. He has been making false promises to the poor farmers of Maharashtra for the past four months," raged the former Union Minister for Agriculture, who plans to start a farmers non-cooperation movement if the loan waiver scheme isn't implemented by 5 November.

After Firstpost broke the story on the irregularities on Tuesday, Fadnavis has been facing intense heat from the Opposition. In an exclusive interview to Firstpost at his Silver Oak Estate residence in South Mumbai, Pawar came down heavily on the implementation of the farmer loan waiver scheme. "In the UPA regime, we provided the highest loan waiver in the country of Rs 71,000 crore. Out of that, Maharashtra received over Rs 8,000 crore in loan waivers in 2008-09," recalled Pawar, "What we did was simple: We appointed a committee and after it submitted a report, we held a discussion with banks. We directly deposited the money into banks. We asked banks for a list of defaulting farmers in according to branches, and then waived the loans. It's so simple. But the BJP-led government and especially the chief minister has no faith in banks. It's very shocking to me."

Maharashtra loan waiver muddle: Devendra Fadnavis has misled farmers, Sharad Pawar tells Firstpost

File image of Sharad Pawar. PTI

Further, the NCP supremo believes the state government has indulged in the jugglery of figures. "It's not just banks. Fadnavis lacks faith and trust in his own departments and bureaucrats. He is creating a parallel body of officers that is only working for him instead of the state. I have never seen such a childish Maharashtra chief minister in the past," Pawar lashed out.

"As a chief minister, you have to have full faith in the system, machinery, banks and officers. But unfortunately, Fadnavis ordered online forms, links to Aadhaar cards and other information that is unrelated to farm loans. In rural Maharashtra, there is load-shedding for more than eight hours a day. Even if there was uninterrupted power supply, how will illiterate farmers fill up online forms? It's stupidity," elaborated Pawar, "I also read in a section of media (and heard from other sources) that the chief minister alleges there was a scam in the distribution of loan waivers last time (under the UPA regime). It's a baseless allegation. He is chief minister and has all the powers to check and if required, demand an inquiry into the last loan waiver."

The former Union minister pointed out that when the previous regime waived farmer loans, the process was wrapped up within weeks. "We deposited the amount directly in banks and this time too, the so-called loan waiver amount was also given to the banks. So what is the difference?" he asked, "It's just the style and propaganda of the BJP. They make fake promises and they lie loudly."

He went on to mention that difficult conditions were deliberately added (to the loan waiver scheme) to exclude a large number of farmers. "The government changed the conditions for the loan waivers time and again by issuing new Government Resolutions (GRs) almost every other day. The government does not know the nuances of administration."

The government had maintained that Aadhaar-based linking will prevent duplication and fake accounts from benefitting from the loan waiver. "First off all, Aadhaar is not mandatory for loan waivers and banks never asked for Aadhaar cards for loan waivers. To demonstrate 'Digital India', the state government is running on the Centre's instructions," Pawar said, adding, "The government had announced that 89 lakh farmers would be eligible for loan waivers. Later the figure was reduced to 77 lakh and two days ago, a senior State Level Bankers' Committee officer told me the number had come down to 67 lakh. What happened? It's been almost four months over after the announcement. Why are farmers being humiliated everyday? Who is responsible for this mess? The chief minister should provide answers to these questions to citizens of Maharashtra."

According to Pawar, officials of some banks also admitted that the data they received from the online registration portal — Aaple Sarkar — was the cause of delay. The state government last week released a sum of Rs 4,000 crore as part of the first phase of the over Rs 34,022-crore farm loan waiver. "Where is the money? If the government set aside Rs 4,000 crore, then why did it write to banks and ask them to waive loans from their own funds? It was much later that the state government released the funds to the banks," Pawar said, claiming, "It's just jugglery of numbers. As per my information, the total loan waiver amount is not more than Rs 12,000 crore and the number of farmers who will benefit are not more than 15 lakh in number. This is because most farmers will be ineligible for the scheme due to the government’s impractical norms."

Responding to the Opposition’s criticism against the online system of filling forms for availing the scheme, Fadnavis had said earlier that if this step had not been taken, the banks would have mismanaged funds. "The chief minister believes that these loan waivers only help banks and that most cooperative banks are controlled by the NCP and Congress. It's a childish allegation. Banks are not controlled by any political party. Banking is a system and our economy depends on it. We cannot say that all banks are defaulters or thieves. It's very sad that the chief minister of a state lacks faith in the banking system," Pawar said.

The implementation of the loan waiver is being completely mishandled, the former chief minister said, adding, "The obsession with quick digitalisation of the economy is a huge harassment to the people. I was the first to openly support Fadnavis' loan waiver announcement. We don’t want to make it a political issue. It's related to the economy and farmers."

Pawar believes that all this is because of the chief minister's reliance on the advice of non-cadre officers who have no experience of running even a department, for running the affairs of the state. "Instead of relying on information supplied by bureaucrats of Mantralaya, the chief minister trusts the opinion of officers on special duty (OSD), which amounts to interference in state machinery," Pawar added

The NCP plans to take on the state government on several issues, including the economic slowdown and failure in implementing the farm loans waiver scheme on time. "The state government had said that the loan waiver scheme would be implemented by Diwali. Now Diwali is over, but not a single rupee has been deposited in the accounts of farmers. We have decided to wait till 5 November, and if nothing happens by then, we will start a farmers non-cooperation movement," Pawar added.

"There will be no compromise. The waiver policy has not been implemented properly. Most of the waiver certificates have been issued to those farmers who never took a loan. It's a complete mess," he said.

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Updated Date: Oct 27, 2017 15:00:38 IST

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