Maharashtra had written off bad loans worth Rs 287 crore in Mumbai in 2009, when the last farm loan waiver scheme was implemented. Seven years since — just as Maharashtra readies to roll out yet another farm loan waiver — the government is still clueless about the beneficiaries from the previous loan waiver. About 24,600 people from the commercial capital have applied for farm loan waiver benefits this time as well, raising eyebrows.
But back in 2009, when the Congress-NCP government was in power, outstanding loans of 1.5 lakh people were written off in the commercial capital under the farm loan waiver benefit. This despite the fact that there is hardly any land tilling that happens in the metropolis. Even Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had admitted to be ‘stumped’ by the revelation that there were ‘farmers’ in Mumbai. The worrying bit — the government still does not have any data on the beneficiaries of the last loan waiver.
Senior government sources confirmed that while the loan waiver benefit was availed by 1.5 lakh people, the banks in question have so far shared details of just 350 such accounts. Four state-owned banks and a leading cooperative bank figure among the financial institutions that had then provided the loans, which were subsequently written off.
Subhash Deshmukh, Minister of Co-operation, said, “Despite repeated requests, the data in this regard has not been shared with the government.” In fact, Deshmukh had even dashed off an official letter to the Commissioner of Co-operatives, conveying his dismay over the unavailability of the data. But this too has failed to elicit a response.
Summing it all up, a senior official said, “It would be fair to say we still do not know who the money went to in Mumbai during the last loan waiver.” But Deshmukh appeared to be defending the 24,600-odd applications received from Mumbai this time around. “We have linked Aadhaar numbers to the farm loan waiver applications. It is quite possible that these applications are from farmers who have farm loan accounts in rural belts, but have listed Mumbai as residential address in Aadhaar cards.” The applicants will soon be categorised on the basis of location of farms for which the loans were availed, sources said.
Meanwhile, sources did not rule out ghost loan accounts across the state. While the State Level Bankers Committee had earlier submitted to the government a data which shows that 89 lakh farmers in the state had availed farm loans, just over 77 lakh farmers have applied for farm loan waiver benefits. While the government had imposed certain caveats ruling out the benefit to affluent farmers who have availed such loans, sources said that a few lakh loan accounts of the past might turn out to be ghost accounts.