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Sanjeev Kaushal: ‘A one-time interest waiver more efficient than farm loan waiver’

The scheme is seen as a counter to the demand of farm loan waiver.

Written by Sukhbir Siwach | Chandigarh | Published: December 16, 2019 3:07:46 am
Punjab news, Punjab farmers, Punjab farmers loan waiver, farm loan waiver, Indian express Sanjeev Kaushal, Additional Chief Secretary, Haryana

In an attempt to give relief to the debt-ridden farmers in the state, the Haryana government has launched a one-time settlement scheme for the borrowers of cooperative banks. This scheme offers a waiver of most of the interest as well as the penal interest on the crop loans taken from cooperative banks. The scheme is seen as a counter to the demand of farm loan waiver. Haryana’s Additional Chief Secretary SANJEEV KAUSHAL tells SUKHBIR SIWACH about the scheme, its objective and the response from the farmers.

What’s the one-time settlement scheme for farmers who borrowed from cooperative banks?

It’s one of the progressive decisions by the government to ensure that farmers in distress are able to handle delayed payment. A couple of months back, the government had approved a similar scheme for the Haryana state Agriculture Marketing Board – it was for people who had purchased shops from the market committees but were not able to pay back the installments on time.

What prompted the government to introduce this scheme?

The government of Haryana is taking all progressive decisions in the interest of the farmers. In the country, Haryana was the first state not only to approve but also enlisted 3.98 lakh small and marginal farmers for Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan-Dhan Yojana (PM-KMY), under which pension is given to farmers.

Is it to counter the demand for a farm loan waiver?

They (the one-time settlement scheme and the farm loan waiver) are very different issues. In Haryana, the farmers did not have to pay any interest in case of timely repayment of loans taken from cooperative banks. And this benefit has been extended to the farmers from 2013 onwards. It means that the farmers who were repaying the crop loans in time for the past six years, they were not required to pay any interest at all. This is much more than the Government of India’s scheme of (interest) subvention because we (the Haryana government) have waived off the interest of 4 per cent as well (under the scheme)…So crop loan waiver doesn’t matter. That’s not an issue. In Haryana, you wouldn’t have really heard it as standard issue like in the state of Maharashtra or other places.

What has been the reaction of the cooperative banks with regard to this scheme?

They are in support of the scheme. In fact, (it was) the banks (who) have proposed the scheme. It is not that the government has forced it on them. Considering the requirements of the situation at the ground level, the (cooperative) banks have proposed the scheme so that the defaulters repay the loans under the scheme.

What is the response of the farmers to the scheme?

Well, you see, we have extended it up to the end of the month (December). The response was encouraging that’s why additional time has been given. We expect most of the farmers (to) utilise the benefits given by the government.

The total amount of short-term loan of Haryana State Cooperative Apex Bank Ltd (HARCO Bank) is about Rs 3,091.55 crore and there are about 6,99,804 borrowers. Out of the total amount, Rs 962 crore has been recovered from about 2,10,840 borrowers till December 7, 2019 and a loan amount of Rs 2,128.79 crore is (still) pending.

Similarly, there are 92,258 borrowers of the Land Mortgage Bank and the total loan amount is Rs 1,577.75 crore, out of which an amount of Rs 185.43 crore has been recovered from 7,169 borrowers till December 7, 2019.

Will the farmers be allowed to take loans from the cooperative banks again?

Why not, if the loans are cleared? If a farmer is not a defaulter and everything has been wiped out by him, why would he not be given a loan? He would be eligible for the loan as a normal farmer once the dues are cleared.

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