The farce of waiving crop loans.
As the country looks forward to a favourable monsoon this year, there is no respite for the farmers in Marathwada and Vidarbha as banks are not yet done with the loan waiver scheme announced last year and are unable to pay fresh crop loans to farmers. As the sowing season approaches, farmers are left with no other option than borrowing money from local ‘Savkars’, the private money lenders who charge steep interest rates.
Ashamati Solanke is standing in a queue at the Bank to know about the status of the Karj Mafi (loan waiver). She had applied for the Maharashtra state government’s boastful scheme named Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana, through online application. But a year since, she is yet to be informed about what happened with her application and loan waiver. Many farmers like her in the Karhala village of Partur Tehsil in Jalna district have been served fresh notices by banks to pay back the loan amount even after the government had again promised a ‘blanket’ loan waiver soon after long Kisan March from Nashik to Mumbai demanding minimum support price and blanket loan waiver.
“It is not only Bollywood actors like Ravina Tandon who get away with insulting the farmer. Kharif (Sowing in Monsoon) season is around the corner and farmers scrounging their pockets without any financial support to make arrangements for seeds and fertilizers this season. They are already in distress because of bollworm attack on the cotton crop in the entire Marathwada and Vidarbha region,” says Dnyaneshwar Solanke, an agri provision shop owner in Ashti, adding, “Farmers have are yet to receive earlier compensation. If your previous loans are not cleared why would a bank offer you fresh loans?”
Around the end of summer, cotton Farmers in Marathwada usually make purchases for the seeds, fertilisers and sow the seeds in the first weeks of June immediately after the start of Monsoon. These activities depend on borrowings and finances, which with decades of government efforts has been coming from the crop loan provided by nationalised banks or cooperatives. This year though as farmer accounts are already carrying dues, they are not eligible to get fresh loans.
The number of accounts for which applications were received stood at 77 Lakh, of which, 46.5 lakh accounts were approved. As per the latest review of the scheme by a cabinet sub-committee on May 29, the Maharashtra government has disbursed Rs 14,916 crore into the accounts of 37.4 lakh farmers which is 64.5% of the Rs 23,102 crore that the state has budgeted for the scheme. The state government has once more reportedly extended the deadline for the loan waiver application to 15 June and June 30, 2018, for one time settlement scheme.
A bank official, when asked about the loan waiver scheme and its implementation, explained his situation requesting anonymity. “ All banks including ours are going through the stress of working for managing schemes like Mudra Loan etc. Whatever we got clearances from the state government for, has been transferred into the beneficiaries' account,” He narrates, adding, “Some forms had mistakes and drawbacks, which were also shown on the notice board. As the government has been changing the criteria and area covered under the scheme, it has raised the problems for banks. We have some budget to allocate fresh loans and we will start it very soon.”
What most of the banks display as a list of farmers who have benefited from the scheme is in English, which most farmers unable to read. Those whose application was returned are also facing the same problem as their name might be in the list but they do not know. Now it has become a routine chore for farmers to visit the banks and ask them for the updated status of loan waiver.
Taterao, another farmer from Beed, had taken the loan of 20,000 from the Bank of Maharashtra branch at Ashti. Due to the consistent drought-like situation for the last three years, he could not pay back the loan amount which has increased to rupees 27, 000 by 2016. When the bank had offered the one time settlement scheme for defaulters he had paid rupees 10,000 and cleared the loan. He has the receipt of payment. Two years later his 7 by 12 document still shows a pending loan and he is unable to apply for a fresh loan from any bank.
“Banks are really running without proper management. What they called a list of loan waiver beneficiaries is nothing but an excel sheet of data pulled from any software. It is in English. No one understands it. The bank manager has no time to address the farmers’ issues and the cashier cannot satisfy our queries.” Says Pandurang, a 25 year old young farmer.
The pamphlets showing advertisements of newly introduced Bollgard cotton variety promising sure protection from bollworms were distributed among farmers amidst clouds wandering in the sky. The sons of the soil were looking at the picturesque white gold shown on the paper with a chaos in the mind, and a desperation to get the money for the sowing season.