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Congress farm loan waivers: Cultivators shocked to find names on beneficiaries list as MP ministers allege fraud by bank staff

Editor’s Note: The Congress rode to power in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan by promising to rid the state of farmers’ issues. However, after securing a huge victory, the Congress’ farm loan waiver schemes have thrown up several discrepancies, exposing a few major irregularities in previous BJP governments’ agriculture debt adjustments. In this four-part series, we analyse the different problems related to the loan waiver schemes in the two states.

Bhopal: Had there been no transparency in the ‘Jai Kisan Fasal Rin Mukti Yojana’, Kamal Nath-led Congress government’s farm loan waiver scheme in Madhya Pradesh, a Rs 3,000 crore scam under the previous government would probably never have been exposed.

Within hours of assuming office, the first decision taken by Chief Minister Kamal Nath was to waive off loans taken by distressed farmers as promised during the elections. The application process began from 15 January. Co-operative societies and nationalised banks were asked to display names of farmers who took loans at all the 23,006 gram panchayats for the sake of transparency. The lists took farmers by surprise and opened a Pandora’s Box all over Madhya Pradesh. Several farmers complained that they never took loans, but their names appeared on the list of debtors. Others said their names remained on the list despite repaying the loan. And there was another category: some farmers said the loan amount marked against their names was more than what they had borrowed.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Mysterious loans

Yogesh Patel was shocked when his neighbours told him his grandmother Shanta Bai, who passed away five years ago, was on the list of loan waiver beneficiaries. “The bank is showing around Rs 4 lakh as the outstanding amount against my grandmother’s name. I cannot pay the huge amount. It is not clear whether she took the loan or bank staff fudged the entries. I have complained to the authorities,” Yogesh said.

Sethi Patel, another farmer of Neemgaon village, said a co-operative bank listed a loan of Rs 2.7 lakh in his name from another village. “I suspect the bank forged my address proof. Now, at the time of loan waiver scheme, their corruption has come to the fore,” Patel said.

In Shivpuri district, teacher Pankaj Sharma said Karhi Co-operative Society listed his father’s name in the loan waiver beneficiary list. However, his father passed away 18 years ago. “According to the list, my father has to pay back Rs 92,800,” Sharma said. According to villagers of Karhi, the society listed 200 farmers with a total loan of Rs 1.27 crore. Of 200 farmers, 27 have lodged complaints.

Nath said reports from across the state indicate that the figure is expected to touch Rs 3,000 crore. State transport minister Govind Rajput cited the example of one Bharat Singh, manager of Swahavan Society in Sagar district, who allegedly enrolled 19 family members as farmers and took loans worth Rs 33 lakh in their names, and has now applied for loan waiver.

Comprising officials from revenue, agriculture and cooperative department, an inquiry committee has been formed in each district to investigate such cases. The committees will submit their reports to the district collector, who will then lodge FIR and suspend the accused.

The modus operandi

Co-operative minister Govind Singh alleged that some staff of co-operative banks formed a nexus to get farm loans on 0 percent interest and then gave loans at a higher interest rate of 1.5 to 3 percent. “Organised nexus has been exposed where bank officials used the documents of poor farmers in a fraudulent manner, availed loans on 0 percent interest, gave it on higher rates in the market and then deposited it back in the bank before the end of the financial year. They minted money and never got caught. This was going on for more than a decade in several banks,” alleged Singh.

He said bank officials misused KYC documents like Aadhaar card and land documents given by customers to avail of loans from three to four banks. “Such examples are aplenty in my region in Gwalior and Bhind,” said Singh. Similar reports are coming from Sagar, Katni and Rewa, he added. Though the government has set 5 February as the last date for applying for loan waiver, the deadline could be extended on a case to case basis, said Singh. The minister said 516 complaints have been received in the past five days with most of them coming from Sagar, Katni and the tribal-dominated Alirajpur.

Agar Malwa collector Ajay Gupta said an FIR has been lodged against the manager and assistant manager of Ganeshpura Society for a Rs 4 crore scam. Other societies in Maina, Kharaina, Gailana and Kasai Dehria in Susner are also being probed and action will be taken against them too, he said. Agriculture welfare minister Sachin Yadav said there are several cases where documents of farmers have been used fraudulently to avail loans from more than one bank. “A big exposé is expected on completion of the inquiry,” said Yadav. Singh said that he has sought an amendment in the Co-operative Act. Properties of the culprits found guilty in the loan scam will be seized by the government once the amendment is made in the law, he added.

The authors are Bhopal- based freelance writers and members of 101Reporters.com

Read part I of the series here: Congress farm loan waivers: MP farmers seethe over flawed implementation of scheme, banks’ dubious calculations

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Updated Date: Feb 12, 2019 18:30:17 IST

Updated: February 12, 2019 — 3:42 pm
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