Many farmers got a rude shock on discovering their loan waiver certificates were worth just a few rupees
For a farm loan waiver of exactly Rs. 12, Shambhu Nath, a marginal farmer and daily wager says he lost Rs. 218 - a princely sum for him and his extremely poor family of 13 in Uttar Pradesh.
He spent Rs 30 on auto rickshaw fare for the 15-km journey from his village to Barabanki town to attend a massive government loan waiver function, which a state minister presided over. Shambhu Nath also lost almost Rs 200 in wages that day since he did not work.
"You know I want to go to the bank manager and shout at him and ask him why he gave my name for this farm loan waiver," says the angry 56-year-old, sitting outside his mud and thatch hut in Barabanki's Jata village.
About 12 lakh farmers have received waiver certificates so far as part of the Rs. 36,000 crore farm loan waiver scheme announced by the Yogi Adityanath government in UP earlier this year. Certificates were handed out at glittering government functions. But like Shambhu Nath, many say they got rude shocks after discovering that their certificates were worth just a few rupees, in some cases as low as Rs. 2 or 3.
At Shambhu Nath's local village bank, officers explain that the calculation for his loan waiver was not a mistake. In April, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced a farm loan waiver up to Rs. 1 lakh for loans taken before March 2016, his first big announcement after he took over and one that triggered demands for farm loan waiver's in other states.
Shambhu Nath's Rs. 28,812 loan was taken before March 2016, but he returned Rs.28,800 in June last year by selling a bull, thus making him eligible for only a Rs. 12 loan waiver. Had he not returned the money, bank officials admit, he would have got a full loan waiver like many other defaulters. And kept his bull.
Ram Prasad from the state's Shahjahanpur district has got a Rs. 1.50 loan waiver. An elderly farmer in the Etawah district was handed a loan waiver certificate totalling Rs.3 a few days ago.
"The government is only interested in inflating numbers. This is a systematic fraud. I feel defaulters are being encouraged. In future, the farmer will take a loan and never return it. People are being encouraged to take loans and then default on them knowing that some government will come and give a waiver," said Naresh Agarwal, Rajya Sabha MP of the Samajwadi Party.
The government has brushed aside criticism, but admitted things could be better organised. "I got to know of one incident and I told that particular District Magistrate to ensure that such small amounts should go directly to the accounts and that farmers are not made to collect certificates for the same," says Avanish Awasthi, a senior UP government official.