MumbaiIn the backdrop of the controversy over the delay in disbursal of farm loan waivers, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis defended the state’s online verification system by saying that as many as 13 lakh ineligible beneficiaries would have benefited from the government’s largesse.Fadnavis also said poor data collection by the banks — both nationalised and cooperative — delayed the loan disbursal process because several institutions had not successfully seeded Aadhaar numbers to the loan accounts and instead filled the data entry field in the information sheet with dummy numbers.The state had announced a loan waiver of Rs34,000 crore for an estimated 89 lakh farmers, based on the initial data released by the banks. This list by the banks got pruned, after the government introduced the online system, to 69 lakh farmers. “The benefit of the online system is that written off loan accounts [bad debts] cannot benefit from the waiver. Once the online system was announced, banks also reduced their beneficiary lists...nearly 13 to 13.5 lakh loan accounts would have otherwise got undue benefit,’’ said Fadnavis.This means that banks would have benefitted more, by recovering lost monies, and several farmers would have missed out on getting money from the bank. The BJP-led government pointed out that the last loan waiver by the UPA government had similarly filled the banks coffers instead of helping out farmers. The state government initiated the disbursal of the loans on October 18 across the state, but the process had to be suspended after it came to light that several beneficiary loan accounts had the same Aadhaar number. “We had given banks a 66-column data sheet to fill. They had to digitally get the information from their database, put it in our sheet electronically and upload it. If there were errors, then our system would give it an error code and send it back to them. But many banks had not seeded Aadhaar numbers. Instead of keeping this field empty, banks filled it with dummy numbers because their IT system did not allow them to proceed without this,’’ Fadnavis said. For the first phase, the state had shortlisted 8.4 lakh beneficiaries, but on Day 1 of the disbursal, it came to the state’s notice that several of the beneficiaries had the same Aadhaar number. “Nearly one lakh accounts have dummy Aadhaar numbers. The state’s verification is based on the Aadhaar number so if this number is wrong, our system goes hay wire. Then there were other errors like the husband or wife got only one Aadhaar number or one Aadhaar number is given to four people. That’s why the chief minister called a meeting on Wednesday to sort out this data mess,’’ said a senior state bureaucrat. Sources said the chief minister took nationalised banks to task at the meeting for the shoddy database, raising a question mark on the digitisation exercise carried out by them.Fadnavis, however, said bank officials admitted their mistakes and even the state corrected a few of its technical glitches in the online verification. “Our verification system was too robust and sensitive so even an additional comma or a character would result in an error code slowing down uploading of data. We have corrected that. The banks have admitted to their errors in data. We have given every bank one liason officer and connected the bank’s IT officer to our officials. Wherever there is no Aadhar number, the field will be kept blank for now,’’ said Fadnavis.The Chief Minister said that by November 25 the state hopes to wrap up the disbursal of 70 to 80% of the beneficiaries and address the remaining 25% of problematic accounts later. The state government has already released Rs4,000 crore required for the first phase of the loan waiver, but so far data of only 28 lakh beneficiaries has been uploaded.