Even as the Devendra Fadnavis government diffused the Maharashtra farmers’ protest by conceding to their demands, the crop loan waiver scheme in Uttar Pradesh has achieved less than 60% of the targeted disbursal of Rs 360 billion although the current financial year 2017-18 is at fag end.
In its first cabinet meeting on April 4, 2017, the Yogi Adityanath cabinet had approved the loan waiver scheme for 8.6 million small and marginal farmers, subject to a ceiling of Rs 100,000. It had covered loans sourced from banks during 2015-16 financial years towards procurement of seeds, fertiliser and pesticides. The scheme was one of the flagship pre-poll promise of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
While crop loan waiver was estimated to cost exchequer over Rs 307 billion, touching the lives of about 8 million, an additional amount of Rs 56 billion pertaining to over 600,000 farmers was to be incurred in writing off non-performing assets (NPA) of commercial and cooperative banks in the agricultural sector, enabling these farmers to seek farm loans again.
This had in fact set in motion similar demands by farmers in others states, including Punjab, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka etc. taking cue from the Adityanath government, some states followed suit and announced farm loans waivers for their farmers.
According to sources, the total disbursal under UP crop loan waiver scheme currently stands at about Rs 210 billion and benefitting 3.5 million small and marginal farmers. In the arid and drought prone Bundelkhand region of the state, crop loan waivers worth only about Rs 15.45 billion had been effected reaching 250,000 farmers.
The state government said necessary checks and balances, including Aadhar Card, possession of agricultural land etc., had been incorporated in the entire verification and disbursal process to ensure only authenticated and genuine farmers benefitted under the loan waiver scheme.
In the ongoing UP Budget Session of the state legislature, a Samajwadi Party legislator had already sought details from the Adityanath government of the actual status of the crop loan waiver scheme, which had put the dispensation on the defensive, since the scheme had just about managed to breach the halfway mark and showing tardy progress ever since.
On August 17, Adityanath had formally rolled out the loan waiver scheme by handing over loan waiver certificates to beneficiaries at a function in Lucknow. About 7,500 farmers were given such certificates. Later, similar functions were organised in all the 75 districts of the state, in which certificates were distributed by local legislators, parliamentarians and ministers. However, the scheme soon lost steam after the ruling party leaders and ministers got busy with the forthcoming UP urban local bodies elections.
The scheme had come under cloud when media reports showed that the farmers were being given petty amounts of less than Rs 10 under the scheme. In UP, there are an estimated 23 million farmers, of which 92.5 percent or roughly 21.5 million fall under the category of small and marginal farmers.