In the run-up to the Rajasthan Assembly elections in 2018, then Congress president Rahul Gandhi had said that if voted to power, the party would waive off farmers’ loans within 10 days.
After the Congress emerged victorious, it announced its loan waiver plan — an order issued by the state Cooperative Department on December 19, 2018 said that that all short-term crop loans availed by eligible farmers from state cooperative banks which were outstanding as on November 30, 2018 would be waived off.
The order added that loans waivers from all nationalised banks, scheduled banks and regional rural banks would apply to “financially weak” and “defaulting farmers” up to Rs 2 lakh. It said it was applicable for short-term crop loans up to Rs 2 lakh availed from all nationalised banks, scheduled banks and regional rural banks which were overdue/way past due date as on November 30, 2018.
With the Ashok Gehlot government completing two years on December 17, more than 20 lakh farmers have received a farm loan waiver for the money they borrowed from state cooperative banks. However, the waiver for loans taken from nationalised and commercial banks remains in limbo.
State Cooperative Minister Udaylal Anjana told The Indian Express, “We have fulfilled the promise made by Rahul ji and waived off Rs 15,000 crore of farm loans availed from cooperative banks. It’s true that the waiving off of loans availed from scheduled banks hasn’t happened yet. The government has held a few meetings with commercial banks but they are unwilling…
“If we get the cooperation of these banks, then the government will also do its bit. If the banks can agree on waiving off a percentage of the loans and the government can deposit a fixed per cent of the amount, then the farm loan waiver for commercial banks is possible,” Anjana said.
He added that the Congress government has waived off short-term crop loans worth Rs 15,000 crore availed by around 20.81 lakh farmers from cooperative banks in the state. “Of the Rs 15,000 crore, around Rs 6,000 crore also relates to the farm loan waiver announced by the previous BJP regime in 2018, which we had to pay to the banks,” said Anjana.
A top official from the state-level bankers’ committee (SLBC), Rajasthan told The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity that a few meetings have been held between the government and the banks but so far talks remain inconclusive.
According to data with the SLBC Rajasthan pertaining to its annual credit plan (ACP), in the years 2017, 2018 and 2019, the agricultural advances of commercial banks in Rajasthan amounted to Rs 67,565 crore, Rs 70,707 crore and Rs 78,034 crore respectively.
For the same time period, the agricultural advances of cooperative banks was much less — Rs 10,287 crore, Rs 12,783 crore and Rs 10,882 crore respectively.
Kunji Lal Meena, Principal Secretary, Agriculture, Horticulture and Cooperative Department, said, “The scheduled banks under the Government of India are not willing to waive off the loans. The Chief Minister had also written letters in the past in this regard.”
Farmer outfits have criticised the Congress government over the pending loan waiver.
“Not a single rupee of loans availed by farmers from commercial banks have been waived off by the government. More than the cooperative banks, farmers avail loans from commercial banks through the kisan credit card (KCC). Ninety per cent of the farmers avail loans from the commercial banks rather than cooperative banks. That is why a waiver of commercial bank loans would be much more beneficial for farmers,” said Pema Ram, Rajasthan president of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the farmers’ outfit affiliated to the CPI(M).
Meanwhile, Rajasthan BJP president Satish Poonia accused the Congress of going back on its promise.
“When Rahul Gandhi came before the 2018 Assembly elections, he openly said that they (the Congress) when their government comes to power they will waive off the entire loan of farmers. The people interpreted this as encompassing all loans regardless of banks. It is also true that this was a temptation because of which people voted for Congress,” he said.
“The farmers who committed suicide in Rajasthan had taken loans from different banks, be it nationalised or rural. The Congress has gone back on its promise. Issues such as farm loan waiver are close to the rural population and the recent panchayati raj election results show that issues such as these contributed to the angst against Congress and they lost,” he said.