Sometime last month, the village lekhpal (revenue official) visited Ashwini Kumar, a farmer in Mamrejpur village of Uttar Pradesh’s Hardoi district, and told him that he was among more than 11 lakh farmers chosen for the first phase of the UP government’s Rs 36,000-crore loan waiver scheme.
“Unhone bataya ki mera naam list mein aa gaya hai (He told me that my name is on the list). I gave him a copy of my Aadhaar card and put my signature wherever he asked. I was very happy that my loan of Rs 78,070 was going to be waived because I was struggling to repay it,” says Kumar, who lives with his wife and three children in a two-room house in Mamrejpur.
On September 14, Kumar says, he was shocked to know — “from a local journalist” — that only 35 paise of his loan had been waived. A visit to the bank the next day confirmed it.
In April this year, a month after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath came to power, the government announced a loan waiver scheme for small and marginal farmers. Earlier this month, the government said it had waived loans amounting to Rs 7,371 crore for 11,93,224 farmers across the state and held functions to distribute waiver certificates. That’s when it emerged that many of these farmers had got low waivers, including 1 paise given to a farmer in Mathura.
Kumar says the bank official explained his waiver to him. Kumar had a pending loan of Rs 97,120.35 as of March 31, 2016, but repaid Rs 97,120 on July 12, 2016. “I repaid Rs 97,120 only because I didn’t want to be declared a defaulter. The very next day, July 13, I withdrew Rs 90,000 since I needed it to buy seeds to plant kharif crops,” says Kumar, who is growing maize and paddy on his one acre this year.
But since the government had fixed March 31, 2016, as the cutoff for the loan waiver — only loans before this were eligible for the waiver — the Rs 90,000 that Kumar took on July 13 didn’t make the cut.
Kumar rushes inside his house to bring his Kisan Credit Card passbook. On August 29, it shows an outstanding of Rs 78,070.81. The next day, the passbook shows a deposit of Rs 0.35. His remaining loan is Rs 78,070.46.
“I still have around Rs 78,000 to pay and the government has washed its hands of the matter, saying they have cleared my loan. I didn’t expect this from Yogiji’s government,” he says, adding that his debt will mount after the harvest season next month. “Insects have eaten up my maize crop. I don’t know how much I will be able to harvest. Paddy is the only hope.”
It was in 2014 that Kumar, the youngest of four brothers, moved out of the family home and started cultivating separately on the one acre he got as his share of the family’s land. That year, he also got himself a kisan credit card.
“I earn about Rs 25,000 to 30,000 a year. I cannot say how much of it is profit because I have no tractor or tiller, so I have to pay another farmer,” says Kumar, a school dropout.
His elder daughter Vaishnavi, 7, is a kindergarten student in Beniganj, about 3 km from his village, while younger daughter, Vaishali, 5, joined the government primary school in the village this year. His son, the youngest of the three, is 2. “He keeps getting fever, so we have to take him to Community Health Centre in Kothawan town (about 10 km away),” says Kumar.
“My job is only to prepare lists. The bank would know why he only got 35 paise,” says lekhpal Naveen Shukla, adding that farmers eligible for the waiver were still being shortlisted — so far, there are seven lists with 400 farmers from Mamrejpur.
On September 13, Minister of State Anil Rajbhar had distributed the loan waiver certificates at a function in Hardoi, but Kumar and a few others who got small amounts were not called. Shukla says they would be given their certificates later.
Vinod Kumar, the pradhan of Mamrejpur, a village of about 7,000 residents, says Kumar’s case is “surprising”. “I didn’t know he had received this small an amount. I will talk to the bank officials and the lekhpal. This is shocking,” he says.
At his home, Ashwani Kumar says his experience of the last three years as a farmer has left him disillusioned. Some years ago, he used to work at a shop that sold ready-made garments in Beniganj market; now, he hopes to open his own shop someday. “There is no security in farming. Kabhi sookha, kabhi baadh, kuch hota hi nahi hai theek se fasal me (one year it’s drought, the other it’s flood. There is hardly a year with good crop),” he says.