PM’s farmer friend
“My Farmer Friend”, read the letter from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Keval Singh Rathor. “Farmers are our economy’s lifeline, the government is aware of your contribution amidst hardship”
With hope in his heart, Rathor (38) arrived in pelting rain at a rural bank in the heart of Yavatmal, 825 km north-east of Mumbai, to be handed the above letter. And a certificate saying the state has erased his 3-year-old Rs 11,000 loan. On Sunday, the bank closed Rathore’s bad account, making the farmer with a 1-acre cotton farm eligible now to apply for fresh credit.
“If banks give us money, we live,” Rathor said, smiling bashfully as he read Singh’s letter informing him of India’s biggest farmloan waiver. “My family is Rs 60,000 in debt, and has already lost 6 acres to the moneylender.”
Starting June 30 the deadline for banks to roll out the Rs 71,000 crore waiver the PM’s letter will go out to over 1.5 lakh farmers across Yavatmal.
In the epicentre of the suicide belt in Maharashtra’s Punjab-sized region of Vidarbha over 2000 farmers have killed themselves since Singh first visited the crisis-ridden zone in 2006 the debt write-off is covering almost 1 in 3 of Yavatmal’s 4.7 lakh farm households.
In the district co-operative bank, with 82 branches, officials were still working phones and racing through files to finalise the list of who is benefitting. “We have 2.5 lakh farm loan accounts,” said a senior loan manager. “97,000 accounts will have debts completely erased. Another 59,000 (farmers with land over 5 hectares) will get a 25% discount.”
That is over Rs 240 crore being written off in a state where the total erasure amounts to over Rs 12,000 crore. Only, no one knows, yet, where the money is coming from, especially when the scheme does not end with waiving loans.
There are now scores of farmers desperate to queue up for fresh credit as soon as they get letters of waivers.