A farmer inspects his parched field.(Reuters Photo)
A farmer inspects his parched field.(Reuters Photo)

Yogi Adityanath’s one year: Waiver cheque failed to check farmers’ woes

As the Yogi Adityanath government completes a year in office, questions are being asked if it has done enough so far to mitigate the sufferings of farmers, whose income levels are one of the lowest in the country, according to the national sample survey-2011-12.
By Brajendra K Parashar | Hindustan Times, Lucknow, Lucknow
PUBLISHED ON MAR 19, 2018 04:50 PM IST

As the Yogi Adityanath government completes a year in office, questions are being asked if it has done enough so far to mitigate the sufferings of farmers, whose income levels are one of the lowest in the country, according to the national sample survey-2011-12.

Some facts about UP’s farmers as per different surveys

Estimated number of agriculture households in Uttar Pradesh is 1.80 crore and 43.8% of them are indebted.

UP is among the states where the proportion of farm households suffering from poverty is the highest with 23.2% farm households in the state living below poverty line against the 22.5% of the national average.

UP’s farmers earnings are more than their expenditures. The average total monthly income of farmers in UP in 2012 was Rs 4923 against their monthly expenditures of Rs 6230 leaving them with savings in minus Rs 1307. The farmers of Punjab earned Rs 18059 and spent Rs 13311 saving Rs 4748 per month.

Average gross cropped area per agricultural household in UP was 0.57 against 2.17 hectare in Punjab and 1.68 hectare in Haryana.

UP’s total share in country’s food production is 17.45% which is highest.

Asking such questions is only natural as the BJP had devoted the first full four pages of its election manifesto —Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra — to agriculture and farmers.

Farm loan waiver was among the major promises that the BJP made to farmers. “The crop loan of all small and medium farmers will be waived,” the manifesto said.

But when it came to implementing the pledge after the party romped to a grand victory in 2017, the fund-starved new government diluted the important loan waiver promise by putting in many eligibility conditions for debt-ridden farmers to avail the scheme, those familiar with the matter said.

For example, it fixed a maximum limit of Rs 1 lakh that could be waived, that too against one loan account only.

Initially, 70 lakh farmers were expected to benefit after the government made a budgetary allocation of Rs 36,000 crore but gradually the number came down to just half. Agriculture minister Surya Pratap Shahi said the government had waived farm loan to the extent of Rs 20,596 crore, benefitting around 33 lakh farmers.

“The eligible farmers, who have been left out, had been asked to give an application by March 10. We have received applications from lakhs of farmers. We will sit in March end and take a call,” he said.

Even the implementation of the promise drew flak when it was found that many farmers received loan waiver cheques for as low as Re 1 or even less.

Although the government countered the criticism by arguing that since the loans existing on March 31, 2016 were being waived, many farmers paid their loan before that period and a few rupees still continued to be showed as arrears with banks. “These are the same arrears for which many farmers got the loan waiver cheques of very low amount,” additional director, agriculture, Rajesh Gupta pointed out.

Arguments notwithstanding, the opposition found an opportunity to mock at the loan waiver scheme. Shailendra Kumar Awasthi, a progressive farmer of Asmanpur village in Bahraich said, the scheme ended up earning more critics than admirers due to dilution and faulty implementation of the important pre-poll promise.

“The BJP’s loan waiver promise was a big joke to farmers,” UP Kisan Sabha leader Mukut Singh said. “They promised to waive all the loans of small and medium farmers, but later limited the amount to Rs 1 lakh apart from putting many other ifs and buts,” he added.

The waiver, Singh claimed, was too inadequate and benefitted too small a number of farmers to make any difference.

Contrary to the promise of providing affordable electricity to each field, power tariff for unmetered private tube wells owned by farmers was increased by 50% and by 77% for unmetered residential connections at one go a few months after the new government came to power.

“Unprecedented tariff hike with regard to tube wells and domestic connections in villages contrary to the promise of cheaper power is one of the major reasons for the simmering discontent among farmers,” UP Rajya Vidyut Upbhokta Parishad president Awadhesh Kumar Verma said.

The work on some other farmer-related announcements is till to begin. They include interest-free crop loan to farmers, setting up of Mukhyamantri Krashi Sinchai Kosh and making cows and other milch animals available to landless farmers.

Agriculture minister Surya Pratap Shahi claimed that the government had done a lot of work for farmers, which he claimed had no parallel. “Apart from waiving crop loans, we are distributing 10,000 subsidised solar irrigation pumps to farmers every year, providing soil health cards to farmers as a campaign, we did record purchase of wheat and paddy and fixed the minimum support price of potato for the first time and ensured smooth and adequate distribution of fertilizers and seeds,” he said, enumerating some achievements.

“Critics must not forget we got the mandate for five years and we will implement each and every promise made to farmers in the days to come. Our government is committed to doubling farmers’ income by 2022,” he stressed.

The criticism, however, becomes important when it comes from an organisation like the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, an outfit of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS). “The government is trying its best but benefits of the policies are not reaching the ground because of the bureaucracy that makes the schemes and rules too complex for a common farmer to avail benefits,” said Ram Chela Ji, state organization secretary.

Farmers, he said, were disappointed. The government must act fast, he advised.

“The results of Gorakhpur and Phulpur bye polls must come as a wake-up call to those in power,” he cautioned.

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