Checking fraud: Punjab govt wants to verify, link farmer accounts with Aadhaar for debt waiver
Following up on a poll promise, the Congress government has announced waiver of crop loans of up to Rs 2 lakh for small and marginal farmers. As a first step, a budgetary provision of Rs 1,500 crore was made, though the crop loans have been assessed at around Rs 9,500 crore.Updated: Aug 01, 2017 09:05 IST
The Punjab government is planning to ask the State-Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) to link Krishi Cards of farmers with their Aadhaar numbers as a first step towards debt waiver. Farmers get subsidy for seeds, fertilisers and other inputs through local cooperatives, and a maximum of Rs 50,000 is credited into their Krishi Card accounts.
By linking these cards with the unique identification (UID) or Aadhaar number, the government will be able to ascertain the exact debt amount and identify any potential fraud.
Following up on a poll promise, the Congress government has announced waiver of crop loans of up to Rs 2 lakh for small and marginal farmers. As a first step, a budgetary provision of Rs 1,500 crore was made, though the crop loans have been assessed at around Rs 9,500 crore. The government believes that linking of Krishi Cards with Aadhar will help find out if the same family has multiple loans or overdraft limits, so that multiple waivers are not given to one family.
However, it’s easier said than done. So far, there is no mandate from the Centre to link Krishi Cards with Aadhaar number; that is only for savings accounts, by March next year. Krishi Card linkage will, therefore, need consent of the farmers. The issue was discussed in the meeting of the SLBC, which comprises representatives of 38 nationalised and private banks, with finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal last week.
While the government might issue directions to the SLBC to start the linking, the banks have insisted that an announcement be made by the government first, it is learnt. “Once the announcement is made by the government, farmers will line up to get it done. Banks telling farmers will not help as those who want extra benefit will like to hide,” said a senior SLBC official.
The state government had formed a panel led by T Haque, a former chairman of the Commission of Agricultural Costs and Prices, to study the debt. According to a member of the panel, there is duplication of at least 10% in the Rs 9,500 crore that the government plans to waive. As per the proposal so far, Rs 6,000 crore of the waiver would go to the banks under the SLBC, and Rs 3500 crore to the Punjab State Cooperative Bank that reaches out to the farmers through district-level cooperative banks and village-level societies.
“Once we get comprehensive data from the banks about each farmer, things will be clear. Linking accounts with Aadhaar will make it transparent,” a panel member from Punjab told HT. This will also help in the long term to solve the problem of farmers making multiple overdraft limits within one eligible household against norms for other schemes too.
Need RBI nod for limit
Meanwhile, as the cash-strapped state government has no money for debt waiver in its coffers, it has to go for loans. But the state has already exhausted its borrowing limit. The government has approached the Reserve Bank of India for a nod to stretch the limit.