Two months after it announced loan waiver for its farmers, the state government has finally come up with a date from which the scheme will be implemented. Minister of Cooperation Subhash Deshmukh Thursday said the loan waiver scheme would be rolled out from October 1, the date when banks will start directly crediting the waived amount into the accounts of the farmers.”
“September 15 would be the last date to fill the form (for claiming the benefit under the loan waiver scheme) and in the next 15 days, the forms would be scrutinised. After the scrutiny, the waived off amount will be directly credited into the accounts of the farmers,” Deshmukh, who was speaking on the sidelines of a review meeting on the implementation of the scheme, he said. The deadlines, he said, could be revised in case of “deserving farmers”.
Named the Chhatrapati Shivaji Shetkari Sanman Yojana, the scheme was announced by the state government in June, following a major protest by the farmers in Maharashtra. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said that around 89 lakh farmers will benefit from the scheme.
A total of Rs 34,000 crore worth of crop loan stands to be written off. As per the guidelines of the scheme, up to Rs 1.5 lakh would be waived from the outstanding loan amounts of eligible farmers. Those who have already repaid their loans will receive either Rs 25,000 or 25 per cent of their loan amount as an incentive. Farmers are supposed to fill an online form at the village level to stake their claim. Deshumkh said 25 lakh forms had already been filled till date.
While the minister was upbeat, several complaints have been filtering in regarding the process of implementation and senior bureaucrats concede that a large number of farmers might not be able to benefit from the scheme.
Operational difficulties are being encountered by the farmers in filling up the forms. Many of them have complained that the government workers at the Maha e-Seva Kendras (the citizen facilitation centres) have been demanding money from them to help them in filling up the online forms. Deshmukh conceded that complaints of this nature were being received. He said that strict instructions had been issued to district collectors to take action. Incidentally, of the 25 lakh applications so far received, almost 40 per cent are from the districts of western Maharashtra where internet connectivity is better.
Once the deadline of September 15 is over, the forms will be cross-checked with the data of outstanding accounts of the banks and those who are found eligible will get the benefit of the scheme. For commercial banks with Core Banking Software (CBS) this would be a relatively easy exercise, but the 31 district central cooperative banks (DCCB) are likely to find this quite laborious.
The problem for the DCCBs stems from the way they disburse their loans. Unlike commercial banks that directly give loans to the farmers, the DCCBs deal with the village-level primary agricultural cooperative societies (PACS), which in turn distribute the loan to individual farmers at the village. While the DCCBs have become CBS-compliant, the PACS are yet to adapt to the software. Thus, manual updating and verification of records have to be done for these banks, which is going to be a time-consuming process. DCCBs disburse just 40 per cent of the crop loan targets, but cater to a larger number of farmers. Thus, for many farmers in the state, October 1 deadline might not become a reality.