Shivappa Jaye, a 60-year-old farmer from Sagar in Kalaburgi district, was overjoyed when the Karnataka government deposited money into his account as part of the state’s farm loan waiver promise, in April this year. But on June 3, weeks after the Lok Sabha elections were declared, the money disappeared from Shivappa’s account. He rushed to the bank to find out what happened – only to be told that the money had been ‘refunded’ to the state government.
“On February 28, the government deposited Rs 50,000 in my bank account. On April 17, Rs 43,535 was deposited. With this, I was happy that my loan will be waived. Suddenly, the money just disappeared, and on June 2 and 3 a total of Rs 93,535 just vanished from my account. When I went to the bank and asked them what happened, they said that the government had issued a notice to all banks to refund the loan waiver amount back to the state government,” Shivappa says.
Not just Shivappa, over 13,000 farmers across the state have been deprived of the loan waiver scheme, according to farmer organisations. Farmers allege that the government’s scheme was only an eyewash to win votes of the people. Honappa Hayyalappa, another farmer from Kalaburgi, says that the government was out to get them as the people did not vote for the Congress or JD(S).
“This time, many people had voted for the BJP. We know how the government feels about farmers in north Karnataka. They do not care, and they have never done so. Our Chief Minister has also made so many statements in the past disregarding our needs. He had also told people of north Karnataka that since we did not vote for the JD(S) during the Assembly elections, why should the government help us. Is this the way they are extracting revenge now? Aren’t governments supposed to help us?” Honnappa laments.
Prior to May 23 (Lok Sabha results), the state government had announced that loans in commercial banks worth Rs 4,830 crore had been waived for 7.49 lakh farmers till April 2019; and loans in cooperative banks worth Rs 3,488 crore were waived for 8.1 lakh farmers. The CMO had specifically stated that Kalaburgi district had the most number of beneficiaries from the co-operative bank sector (72,654), followed by Haveri (62,915) and Raichur (49,280). In commercial banks, Belagavi district had recorded the highest number of farmers whose loans have been waived (87,276), followed by Tumkur (82798) and Mandya (78,167).
The state government has not denied these reports – however, they’ve put the blame on the banks, and the Centre. Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy said that the discrepancy was noted in the bank accounts of 13,988 farmers in the state during an audit conducted on Monday. “I have called a meeting with representatives of various banks on June 14 at 2.30 pm to discuss this specific issue. Meanwhile, the banks have been asked to explain why the money has been refunded,” Kumaraswamy said.
Stating that the discrepancies had occurred only in nationalised banks, Kumaraswamy blamed the Union government and demanded that the Centre be held responsible.
“Since this morning (Tuesday), news is being circulated that the state government had deposited the money ahead of the elections only to win votes. What will you (the media) benefit from this? The discrepancies have occurred in nationalised banks. You (the media) praise Modi every day. Why not question him about this?” Kumaraswamy said.
However, sources in the Co-Operation Department told TNM that the banks were directed to refund the money to the exchequer by the state government. “Every transaction for loan waiver is done only after it is cleared by the respective taluk committees. This could not have happened without their knowledge,” the source added.
The limit for farm loan waiver was capped at Rs 2 lakh per family, which includes the farmer, spouse and dependent children. The state budget 2019-20 also allocated an additional Rs 6,893 crore or Rs 25,000 back to the farmers’ accounts, as an incentive for not defaulting farm loans. The total cost of the scheme is Rs 37,159 crore, which aims to benefit 4.489 million farmers in the state.
Farmers have to submit copies of their Aadhaar card, ration card and land record details as proof for eligibility. Farmers themselves can upload their documents on the Crop Loan Waiver website or get taluk officials to help them. Once the details are uploaded, a pre-filled form is automatically generated by the software and the farmer gets an acknowledgement. These documents are vetted by the taluk committees where loan amounts are determined. Eligible farmers are then handed ‘Runa Mukta Patra’ (loan clearance certificate), which they are to handover to the banks. The banks then send these requisite amounts for state government clearance and the money is deposited into the farmers’ accounts, after which the money is used to waive the loans.