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CONGRESS KA HAATH ANNADATA KE SAATH
In his budget speech this year, when the Finance Minister P. Chidambaram announced the most ambitious farm loan waiver scheme with an estimated write off of Rs. 60,000 crores covering more than 4 crore farmers, it was hailed as a historic decision. Surely, no government has ever had the courage and the resources to provide direct cash relief to so many distressed farmers.
But under the dynamic and efficient leadership of UPA chairperson Smt. Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, the national economy has grown for four years at a sustained rate of more than 9 percent per annum. Consequently, the UPA has the resources to provide relief to the farmers without imposing any additional burden on tax-payers. So good is the health of the economy that tax payers have been provided a big relief as well.
In his intervention in the Lok Sabha, Rahul Gandhi, AICC General Secretary along with other Congress MP's made two pertinent points regarding the loan waiver scheme. As the current ceiling of 2 hectares for eligible farmers did not account for land productivity and excluded deserving farmers in poorly irrigated areas, specifically the dry land areas like Vidarbha, he suggested that land ceiling be based upon productivity. Taking into consideration the cropping cycles, he also suggested that localized cutoff dates be considered so that every deserving farmer benefits from the waiver.
Thus the amended loan waiver scheme has been announced. It is now more inclusive. It offers a total waiver of Rs. 72,000 crores. Its highlights are as follows:
- Full loan waiver for small farmers and marginal farmers.
- Waiver will cover short term crop loans as well as all the overdue installments on the investment credit.
- For short-term production loans, the amounts disbursed upto March 31st, 2007 and overdue as on December 31st, 2007 and remaining unpaid until February 28th, 2008 are eligible for loan waiver.
- For investment loans, the installments of such loans that are overdue, together with the interest are eligible for all loans disbursed upto March 31, 2007 and overdue as on December 31st, 2007 and remaining unpaid till February 28th 2008.
- Marginal farmer is defined as cultivating agricultural land up to 1 hectare or 2.5 acres.
- Small farmer is defined as cultivating between 1 hectare and 2 hectares i.e. less than 5 acres. Small and marginal farmers account for between 70 to 94 percent of all farmers in most states.
- Other farmers, i.e. owning more than 5 acres or more than 2 hectares, will get one-time settlement (OTS) relief.
- Bulk of all dry and unirrigated lands fall in districts covered by the drought prone area programme popularly known as DPAP and the desert development programme (DDP). The total number of such districts is 237.
- Special package for other farmers in these 237 districts.
- For other farmers in these 237 districts, the OTS relief will be 25% or Rs. 20,000, whichever is higher and not 25 percent as announced in the budget.
- This means bigger relief for other farmers. For instance, if a farmer's overdue was Rs. 20,000 under the original package he would have had Rs. 5,000, now the farmer will get Rs. 20,000 write off. If earlier the farmer's outstanding was Rs. 60,000, under the earlier package, he would have got Rs. 15,000, now he will get Rs. 20,000 written off.
- On an average, the larger farmer (holding more than 5 acres) in these areas has a short term crop loan of about Rs. 19,908 and the average size of the investment loan is Rs.13,224. As per these figures, 60-65 percent of large farmers in these 237 districts will get not 25% relief, but full debt waiver.
- There is no application, no certification, no documents to be attached, nothing.
- Each branch manager has to prepare two lists.
- The first list will be for small and marginal farmers who will get full debt waiver. The name of the farmer, the amount of loan that is outstanding against him and the full debt waiver will be put up in that list.
- The second list will consist of other farmers. The OTS relief will be 25% and in some districts 25% or Rs. 20,000, whichever is higher.
- The two lists will be finalized and the list will be put up on the notice board of the branch of the lending institution.
- Any farmer can simply walk up to the bank branch and look at the list. He will find his name in either in debt waiver list or the debt relief list, and amount of debt waiver or the debt relief will also be published in that list.
- The list will be prepared by the bank, put on the notice board and the debt is waived. The farmer has to do nothing.
- In case of OTS relief, the farmer has to pay the balance 75%. He can pay the balance in three installments on or before 30th of June, 2009.
- Up to 30th June, 2009, no interest will be charged on the outstanding amount of the other farmer.
- In case a farmer has a complaint, if his name is not in the correct list or his name is not in the list at all, he can give a complaint to the grievance redressal officer.
- Every bank has been asked to appoint as many grievance redressal officers as necessary having regard to the number of branches in each district in his zone. Complaint can be sent directly to the bank or to the grievance redressal officer.
- All complaints will be compiled and monitored.
- All grievances will be disposed of within 30 days.
- It is a simple hassle free mechanism.
- The moment the debt waiver is done and the debt relief is done, a certificate will be issued by the branch to the farmer that he is being given either debt waiver or debt relief.
- The only one paper which the farmer has to handle is the paper that he will receive, namely the certificate.
- 4,30,00,000 farmers to benefit which will be about 70 to 94 per cent. Loan waiver to be completed by June 30th, 2008.