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Farm loan waiver: Maharashtra to publicly verify online applicants

LiveMint logoLiveMint 28-09-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

New Delhi: The name of every farmer who has applied for a farm loan waiver in Maharashtra—there are well over five million—will be read out publicly in village squares across the state.

The Maharashtra government exercise, named Chawdi Vaachan (read out at a public place), is aimed at identifying genuine farmers who deserve loan waiver benefits, according to minister for co-operation Subhash Deshmukh.

“The intention is to read out the names of more than 5.6 million people who have submitted their online applications. Government officials will organize these meetings at public places in all villages where the names of applicants from that particular village will be read out. If villagers feel some applicants are not farmers or have not taken loan in the first place, they will be free to raise objections. This is one of the measures we are taking to make sure that only genuine and eligible farmers get the benefit,” Deshmukh told Mint.

This exercise will be completed by 2 October, he said.

Along with the online application system introduced by the Devendra Fadnavis government, along the lines of a model first implemented in Andhra Pradesh, the exercise to publicly cross-check the names of applicants with the data they have mentioned in the applications is being tried for the first time in Maharashtra.

The farm loan waivers announced by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in 2008 (national farm loan waiver) and 2009 (in Maharashtra) were implemented on the basis of the data submitted by the State Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC). However, Fadnavis told the legislative assembly during the monsoon session in July that there is no database of farmers who benefitted from the 2009 waiver.

“What we are achieving through the online application system and the verification which is underway now is a proper database of farmers who will benefit from the 2017 loan waiver. This would serve as extremely useful data for all the governments to come and it will set a benchmark on how to implement such a scheme for the people it is aimed at,” said a senior co-operation department official, requesting anonymity.

By 22 September—the deadline to submit online applications—more than 10 million people had enrolled for the scheme. Of these, 5.6 million had completed their online applications. These applications mention over 7.7 million bank accounts, which means some people, who have applied, have more than one bank account, or some applicants may have mentioned all the accounts held by family members.

“In many cases, the farmer and his wife hold different bank accounts which they have mentioned in the form,” said the official.

The government feels the online system has delivered in terms of preliminary checks. “When the loan waiver was announced, the chief minister said it would benefit 8.9 million farmers. This figure was based on SLBC data. If we had gone ahead and started depositing loan waiver money in these 8.9 million accounts, this loan waiver would also have been a failure like the previous schemes. That is why we called for online applications to establish links between the accounts, account holders, and farmers, using their bio-metric data,” Deshmukh said.

The co-operation department official quoted earlier said the eligibility parameters set by the government might have disqualified many of those 8.9 million accounts. “They may not have applied in the first place. Even if some of those people who are ineligible have applied, they will most likely be identified and kept out of the benefit,” the official said.

The government and banks have taken a number of steps to identify the beneficiaries. Village-wise names of all 5.6 million applicants have been uploaded on the government portal ‘Aaple Sarkar’ (Our Government). The bank account numbers, Aadhaar numbers, and the amount of debt mentioned by the applicants in their forms are being tallied with the banks. Once all 30 district central cooperative banks (DCCBs) in the state and 43 commercial banks verify the information recorded in the applications and enter data on the system, it would be checked by the state’s information technology department.

Based on this exercise and data verification at multiple points, provisional lists of village-wise beneficiaries will be prepared, Deshmukh said. “These lists will be verified by the taluka-level committees we have appointed and money will be directly deposited into the beneficiaries’ accounts,” Deshmukh said.

The lists will also be uploaded on the ‘Aaple Sarkar’ portal and displayed at government offices in villages in the first week of October. “Farmers will be given an opportunity to file their grievances and objections even after the final lists are out,” he added.

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