Slammed by Oppn, govt agrees to debate farm loan waiver scheme
In the wake of CAG report on farm loan waiver, members in Lok Sabha on Wednesday demanded stern action against swindlers in the Rs 52,000 crore scheme, prompting the government to agree to a full-fledged discussion.
Members, cutting across party lines, lambasted the government for failing to properly implement the programme.
Responding to a brief debate, parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said, "I share the sentiments of the members. It is not only a matter of grave concern but it is a matter of shame."
Speaker Meira Kumar said the members should give notice so that a detailed discussion could take place on this important matter.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj referred to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on the farm debt waiver scheme and said thousands of actual beneficiaries were denied its benefits, while those who were not eligible got the relief.
Demanding that officials of banks and auditors should be questioned and FIRs filed, she said the RBI had also convened a meeting of banks in January and given them time to rectify the mistakes, "but no action was taken."
Swaraj also sought a structured discussion in the House on the "very serious matter".
The CAG report, tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, said the guidelines for implementation of the scheme were violated with a private schedule commercial bank shown to have received reimbursement for loan of Rs 164 crore extended to Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs). It also noted prima facie evidence of tampering, over writing and alteration of records.
Leaders of several parties including JD-U, Left, SP, BSP, BJD, Shiv Sena, SAD, TDP and JD(S) said a large number of farmers, reeling under massive debt, were forced to commit suicide across the country as they did not get the benefits of the debt waiver scheme.
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) said, "We knew from Day One that banks will create hurdles for farmers on this scheme."
Rewati Raman Singh (SP) and Dara Singh Chauhan (BSP) sought a thorough probe and lodging of FIRs, saying that bank officials and personnel also created "problems and hurdles" for several schemes for farmers like Kisan Credit Card.
Maintaining that around three lakh farmers had so far committed suicide due to financial distress, Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) said, "Government knew about the loot of thousands of crore meant for the farmers but did not take any action. Why was no action taken? Who were protecting these looters?"
Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyay sought stern action against those found guilty of the wrongdoings, while Bhratruhari Mahtab (BJD) said many MFIs have taken benefit of the loan waiver and "hoodwinked" the system.
"It is a systemic failure in which crores and crores have been swindled," he said, adding, it was a "unique case" where the administrative system itself has failed. He wanted exemplary action against those involved, sooner than later.
Anant Geete (Shiv Sena) said those who have swindled the money from the scheme needed to be given strictest punishment as their "loot" has led to suicide by large number of farmers.
"Government should treat this as a crime and act accordingly."
M Thambidurai (AIADMK) wondered how ineligible farmers managed to get loans from scheduled banks, while Nama Nageshwar Rao (TDP) said the plight of farmers in Andhra Pradesh was the worst.
Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda (JD-S) said the main beneficiaries of the scheme were actually the big landlords who had reaped the benefits in the name of their tenants or landless farmers.
He demanded stringent implementation of land reforms, without which any pro-farmer schemes would not be properly implemented.
Lalu Prasad (RJD) said the alleged scam showed how bureaucracy looted public money at a time when the political class got blamed for all the wrong. Prabodh Panda (CPI) and Rattan Singh Ajnala (SAD) wanted a structured debate on the issue.
Sanjay Nirupam (Cong) said the government had brought the scheme with good intentions, but lapses have been found in its implementation as the administrative system is six decades old. He said the matter has to be discussed thoroughly.