AT A time when various states are scrambling to ensure the implementation of loan waiver schemes for farmers in a foolproof manner — without leakages, duplication and fraud — the Karnataka government has taken a different route.
Since its July 2018 announcement of a waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh of all overdue crop loans (up to December 31, 2017), Karnataka’s Survey, Settlement and Land Records department has created its own IT window, the Crop Loan Waiver System (CLWS), to implement its Rs 44,000 crore scheme.
Using Aadhaar, land survey and ration card numbers along with bank data, and digitised land and ration card records, officials say CLWS has saved around Rs 4,000 crore in double payments to around 5 lakh farmers since December 2018, when the waiver was rolled out for 40 lakh farmers. Officials say it has also helped eliminate as many as 8 lakh loans that were identified as non-farm.
So much so, that on June 20, during a briefing on his government’s early achievements, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy pointed to this initiative.
“The chairmen and MDs of banks are telling us that we have carried out the bank loan waiver in an exemplary manner. There is probably no other example from the whole country where a loan waiver scheme has been carried out so scientifically without leakage of funds, they told us,” he said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Karnataka Chief Secretary T M Vijay Bhaskar said CLWS “has created a situation where all loans can be waived in a few months despite the initial proposal being for a four-phase waiver spread over four years”.
“The creation of the system was possible because of the existence of the Bhoomi database (digitised records of all land ownership in the state), which no other state has, along with the Aadhaar and ration card databases,’’ he said.
The architects of this IT drive are the Bhoomi Monitoring Cell (BMC) of the Revenue Ministry and its Commissioner, IAS officer Munish Moudgil, who put together the software team.
“The detailing upto the last level was the challenge. The other challenge was to create a new IT system. We had to start from scratch… working real time and delivering in one or two months. The details of about 40 lakh farmers were obtained to check eligibility electronically. Today, at the end of four to five months, every eligible farmer who has given his details has been able to avail the waiver,” Moudgil, an IIT-Bombay alumni, told The Indian Express.
The crucial aspect of CLWS, according to the 1998-batch officer, is the oversight it gives the state on loan waiver implementation, which does not exist when it is based on bank data alone.
“Most people pick the lists from banks and remit the money believing that the data is correct and the money is given to the banks. Once the bank gets the money, it remits it into the relevant account and gives a clearance certificate. There is no check and no supervisory element,” Moudgil, 44, said.
According to the CLWS portal, which is accessible to farmers, bankers, the government and the public, 22.19 lakh outstanding crop loans have been identified in 6,538 branches of commercial banks and 18.71 lakh loans in 5,346 cooperative banks as on June 26.
The government has made payments to 7.49 lakh commercial bank crop loan accounts as of the ninth phase of the waiver release on March 10 — a total of Rs 2,735 crore. It has also paid crop loans in 12.89 lakh co-operative bank accounts to the tune of Rs 5,620 crore as of June 15.
In 2019-20, a budget provision of Rs 6,500 crore for commercial bank crop loans and Rs 6,150 crore for co-operative loans has been made. The co-operative loan waiver process is scheduled to be completed this month, and the commercial phase during the financial year 2019-20.
“We decided to ask the farmer to bring only three things, which he already has… an Aadhaar number, the survey number for the land on which he obtained the loan, and the ration card number. On other items of verification, we went by trust through self-declaration on the grounds that if something wrong is found, we would recover the money,’’ said Moudgil.
For those who did not have an Aadhaar number, enrolment centres were set up at the local level. “About 5 lakh farmers who had loans from commercial banks also had a co-operative loan. This system could immediately identify that the same farmer is giving his details in the commercial bank and the co-operative bank. The minute he gave his Aadhaar number in the co-operative bank and the commercial bank we got to know he has two loans. We found some 5 lakh such farmers and that saved the government almost Rs 4,000 crore,’’ he said.
“In the beginning, we got a list of 22 lakh outstanding loans from commercial banks. When we pointed out the government order, and asked them to check before we verify the list, the number came down to 16 lakh,’’ Moudgil said.