Farm debt waiver verification in Punjab hits a hurdle in second phase
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Farm debt waiver verification in Punjab hits a hurdle in second phase

As many as 3 lakh marginal farmers who got loans from the state cooperative bank were given Rs 1,700 crore debt waiver in the first stage of the programme.

punjab Updated: Jul 21, 2018 09:21 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Farm debt waiver,Punjab,marginal farmers
The disbursal of waiver in the second stage is expected to begin in the second week of August.(HT File)

The Punjab government’s farm debt waiver programme has hit a hurdle in its second stage with the departments concerned finding it difficult to verify whether the marginal farmers who got loans from commercial banks have also borrowed from the state cooperative bank as the information sharing process is complex and slow.

As many as 3 lakh marginal farmers who got loans from the state cooperative bank were given Rs 1,700 crore debt waiver in the first stage of the programme.

The state agriculture department was made the nodal agency to coordinate with finance, cooperation and revenue departments.

Besides, it is also challenging to sift marginal farmers who have borrowed from both the state cooperative bank and commercial banks.

The disbursal of waiver in the second stage is expected to begin in the second week of August.

“For us, data from 5,415 commercial bank branches in the state is crucial. To cross-check everything, we have to wait till the last branch uploads data on our portal. Information from these banks keeps trickling in, leading to delay,” said an agriculture department officer seeking anonymity.

The Congress, in the run-up to the 2017 assembly polls, had promised a complete waiver for Punjab farmers. It included loans they had taken from all agencies, banks and commission agents.

After coming to power, the Congress scaled down on its promise by capping the maximum waiver for small and marginal farmers at Rs 2 lakh and later removing the income tax payee farmers from the beneficiaries’ list.

It had taken the government six months to roll out the policy wherein the government proposes to cover nearly 10 lakh farmers with a total debt waiver of ranging from Rs 9,500 to Rs 10,000 crore.

To fund the waiver, the government is raising loans by pledging the receipts of the rural development board.

The commercial banks, reluctant to share data initially, were moved after they were conveyed that the state government may explore the option of reporting matter to the Union finance ministry if they did not cooperate.

“As we are covering the marginal farmers who took loans from commercial banks, we don’t want to go wrong for lack of proper verification,” said additional chief secretary (agriculture) Vishavjeet Khanna.

In the third stage of waiver, the state government will cover small farmers who have borrowed from the cooperative bank followed by small farmers having taken loans from commercial banks in the last stage, Khanna said.

Interestingly, it is yet to be seen how much loan amount the government waives in the second stage.

First Published: Jul 21, 2018 09:21 IST