Afternoon Voice

RTI reveals govt’s  farm loan goof up

Suicides among farmers are been observed for several years due to indebtness and unproductive land. However, according to the reports, in Maharashtra, as many as 26,339 farmers have committed suicide in the last 17 years. Giving rise to the list of scams in the name of farmers’ loan by the Maharashtra government, an upcoming revelation by the Reserve Bank of India in a response to a Right To Information (RTI) application by a leading portal ‘The Wire’ has unfolded  many cards of the state government.

Former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi asserted, “It is a big scam, if the data revealed is true. Several times people get information from RTI but their interpretation and calculation happen to be different. Hence, there is a need  for an in-depth analysis of the report especially, whenever there is a revelation of such absurd report.”

According to the data disclosed in the RTI application, it comes as shock that the government banks have handed out Rs 58,561 crore to 615 accounts as agricultural loans in the year 2016. On an average, each account has been given over Rs 95 crore in agricultural loans. On the contrary to these numbers unveiled, agricultural experts believe that in the process of granting loans to the farmer under the agricultural loans category, big corporations are given loans at a cheaper rate which also results into benefitting the banks to achieve their target. The solving of farmers’ problem is all just charade. Several questions are being raised on how the procedure is shortened for giving out massive loans to the industry.

When AV spoke to Devinder Sharma, an agricultural expert, he commented, “If money is disbursed to the Corporates then it is a loss for the farmers. Two years ago, I had spoken with the Finance Minister regarding the artificial lending going on and loans not being able to reach to the farmers. There should be a demarcation of loans granted to the companies and the agricultural sector. Why is the government yet unable to resolve this issue? If the entire money dedicated to the farmers is not reaching them, then why the government is misleading the citizens?”

In a detailed data accessed from the RBI leaks that massive amounts had been disbursed to the people in the name of agricultural loans even before 2016. Where 2013 saw 665 accounts had received Rs 56,000 crore at an average of Rs 84.30 crore per account in the agricultural loans, 698 accounts were given Rs 55,504 crore at an average of Rs 79.51 crore per account in 2012. While in 2015, 604 accounts got Rs 52,143 crore, which comes to Rs 86.33 crore per account, whereas, Rs 60,156 crore (at an average of Rs 91.28 crore per account) was sanctioned in agricultural loans in 2014. Hence, this proves that the same method was being followed during the UPA government as well. Here the question being raised is that what kind of farmers are those, who are being granted Rs 100 crore in loans?

Shiv Sena spokesperson and MLC Neelam Gorhe said, “We have to go deeper into this particular subject as money was disbursed to which companies. An audit must be undertaken about the work done by these companies. Whether they are really beneficial to the farmers and how? As per our experience, generally, banks are reluctant for helping farmers. Availing loans from banks is a tedious process. Hence, we had earlier demanded to the state government to simplify the procedure of granting loans to the farmers.”

The bifurcation of the agricultural loans is made under three subcategories – agricultural debt, foundational agricultural infrastructure and supporting activities. Godowns and cold-storages fall under foundational infrastructure. For these, loans up to Rs 100 crore are granted. While, the aspects like the setting up of agri-clinics and agri-business centres fall under supporting activities, and for these too the limit for loans is Rs 100 crore. Is the state government in the favour of making poor more poorer and the upper class even more richer by creating such discrimination?

Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant stated, “It is the reflection of the policies of the Modi government. On one side, the company supposes to be given benefit for the agricultural purpose where the government provides a subsidy to the farmer. On the other hand, in the last three years, the target has not been achieved for sanctioning new crop loans. There is a visible discrimination in terms of providing benefits. Here farmers’ are committing suicides because they are not getting loans. There is a need for an investigation, however, it seems that the government is not serious about resolving farmers’ problems. The policies of the government are not in the interest of the larger section of the society and just favouring a few corporates.”

In 2014-15, the NDA government in the Union budget had targeted Rs 8.5 lakh crore in the agricultural loans, which has now increased to Rs 11 lakh crore for 2018-19. Although it is believed that the government must sanction loans to the farmers and agri-business companies separately. Farmers should not be misguided by giving companies loans under the ‘agricultural’ tag.

BJP spokesperson Avdhut Wagh exclaimed, “We had earlier released an official CD where it completely specifies which farmers got money and what amount  they received. We assured the people to provide complete transparency to ensure that the government is bound to provide money to reach to the farmers.”

As per the reports, the RBI in order to give top priority and ensure the development of some economic sectors in the country, has issued a directive to banks to invest a fixed part of their total loans into sectors like agriculture, micro, small and medium enterprises, export credit, education, housing, social infrastructure and renewable energy which is known as the priority sector lending (PSL).