Rajasthan to roll out farm loan waiver

After hectic consultations, which postponed an announcement, the Congress government in Rajasthan will finally roll out a Rs 7,000-crore farm loan waiver scheme on Thursday, delivering on its election promise.

The scheme, which will utilize Aadhaar-based biometric authentication, will start a day before the state’s main opposition BJP has called for a ‘jail bharo’ protest against the “delay” in waiving the loans.

The currently elected Congress governments in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh had rolled out loan waiver programmes for farmers in their respective states in January.

In Rajasthan, the government would start with waiving loans taken from cooperative banks by small and medium farmers.

“It is a programme which would be rolled out in three phases over the next one month,” Rajasthan principal secretary (cooperatives) Abhay Kumar told ET. “In the first phase, farmers are needed to register on our portal. After this, they would be required to get Aadhaar authentication done. Once this is done, they would be given loan waiver certificates.”

Kumar stated that 120,000 farmers in Rajasthan have so far registered on the portal. “We have sent SMS to 40,000 farmers to come forward and complete biometric authentication. This would be done over the next 24 hours,” he said. The cooperatives department, which is the nodal agency, has identified 6,500 locations across 33 administrative districts where camps would be held. “This is the first time that loan waiver has been rolled out as an interactive process,” stated Kumar.

Congress had been under high pressure to fulfill its election promise. Though Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot had announced the decision to waive off loans in principle on December 19, the administration had not given an unconfirmed date for this.

In the interim budget, the Modi government has announced Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PMKISAN), which solves to give vulnerable landholding farmer families with cultivable land up to 2 hectares an allowance of Rs 6,000 per annum in three installments of Rs 2,000 each. As per sources, the announcement added a sense of urgency and the Gehlot government got a nudge to start the process.

The Rajasthan government had got a lot of flak from BJP in the last assembly session over the delay in farm loan waiver. The government wanted to show some progress before the assembly session starts on February 11.

The initiative would put an obvious burden on the exchequer.

“The expenditure would be borne by the state government,” Rajasthan State Cooperative Bank managing director VidyadharGodara told ET. “We have already indicated to the government that loan waiver could cost anywhere among Rs 6,000 and Rs 7,000 crore.”

The state government is already saddled with the burden of farm loan waiver set up by the previous BJP government under Vasundhara Raje.

Though Raje had earmarked Rs 2,000 crore in the 2018-19 budget, the all burden worked out to Rs 8,500 crore.

Rajasthan chief secretary D B Gupta has been holding numerous meetings with all district collectors to begin the process.