A parliamentary committee has picked holes in the ambitious agriculture debt waiver and debt relief scheme of the UPA government saying it could not achieve its goals due to a variety of reasons including violation of guidelines and poor monitoring.
Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in its draft report on the scheme said there was a “flagrant display of financial and administrative indiscipline by the Department of Financial Services (of the Finance Ministry), nodal agencies and implementing institutions in the implementation of such a welfare scheme.”
The draft report is set to come up for adoption before the committee shortly.
The draft report points that apparently, vital lists of intended beneficiaries were prepared in a “cavalier manner” as these were replete with mistakes, leading to serious financial lapses.
It termed as unfortunate the “perfunctory” manner in which the scheme was conceived and its “shoddy” implementation.
“It appears that the Department of Financial Services, the apex authority responsible for administration and implementation of the scheme, turned a mute bystander after issuing the guidelines of the scheme in May, 2008,” it observed.
According to March 2010 provisional estimates, the scheme was likely to cost the government an approximate Rs. 65,318 crore and benefit 3.69 crore farmers.
But detailed examination revealed errors of inclusion and exclusion at the beneficiary level, reimbursement of loans to micro finance institutions in violation of guidelines, tampering, overwriting and alteration of records, non-extension of benefits to entitled farmers and deficient monitoring of the scheme.
The Secretary, Department of Financial Services, in fact, conceded that the issue raised by the CAG were correct and the department had no intention of disputing the veracity of the points raised by the auditor.
The Committee observed that the scheme had set an “unrealistic” and ambitious target of achieving debt waiver for an estimated 4.29 crore farmer accounts in an unrealistically short span of one month.
“The Committee deplores that despite laudable intention, the perfunctory manner in which the scheme was conceived and the shoddy manner in which it was implemented. This is unfortunate, to say the least,” the draft said.
Expressing serious concern over the implementation of the Rs. 52,000-crore farm debt waiver scheme, government auditor Comptroller and Auditor General had in March last year said in several cases ineligible farmers were given benefit while deserving ones were left out.
The CAG has also found instances of tampering of records and pulled up the Department of Financial Services in the Finance Ministry for deficient monitoring of the multi-crore scheme.
“Overall, the Performance Audit revealed that in 22.32 per cent of cases test checked, there were lapses/errors which raised serious concern about the implementation of the scheme,” said the CAG report.
The report deals with Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme (ADWDRS) 2008 under which 3.69 crore small and marginal farmers and 60 lakh other farmers were given debt relief to the extent of Rs. 52,516 crore.