The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in a report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, pointed out that several ineligible farmers were favoured and a large number of deserving small and marginal farmers left out in implementation of the United Progressive Alliance’s much-touted Rs. 52,000-crore farm loan waiver scheme.
The scheme, meant to help indebted farmers in districts where suicides occur, was so haphazard and faulty in implementation that no records were maintained of farmers’ applications accepted or rejected by lending institutions or how many farmers were given fresh loans as a result of debt waiver/relief, it said.
The BJP was quick to seek a CBI probe into what it called the “farmers debt waiver scam.”
The Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme (ADWDRS) was launched in Vidarbha by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in May 2008. Initially, it was launched in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, where suicides by farmers peaked in 2008. It was estimated that 3.69 crore small and marginal farmers and about 0.60 crore other farmers would benefit from the scheme and become eligible for fresh loan.
According to the CAG, the monitoring of the scheme was “deficient.’’ There was even prima facie evidence of tampering with, overwriting and alteration of records.
In certain cases, lending institutions such as banks claimed from the government charges such as interest in excess of the principal amount, unapplied interest, penal interest, legal charges, inspection charges and miscellaneous charges, all of which they themselves should have borne.
“Out of 9,334 accounts test-checked in audit across nine States, 1,257 (13.46 per cent) were found to be eligible for benefit, but were not considered by the lending institutions,’’ the report said.
“[At the same time], of the 80,299 accounts granted debt waiver, in 8.5 per cent cases, the beneficiaries were not eligible for either debt waiver or debt relief. They were those who had taken loans for non-agricultural purposes or whose loans did not meet eligibility conditions.’’
In violation of guidelines, a private scheduled commercial bank received reimbursement for loans to the tune of Rs. 164.60 crore extended to micro finance institutions.
Besides, the Department of Financial Services (DFS) under the Ministry of Finance, which implemented the scheme, accepted the reimbursement claims of the RBI in respect of urban cooperative banks, amounting to Rs. 335.62 crore, despite the fact that even the total number of beneficiaries’ accounts was not indicated.
The CAG observed that in the absence of monitoring of the scheme, lending institutions did not issue debt waiver/relief certificates to eligible beneficiaries. Nor was acknowledgement sought from farmers making them eligible for fresh loans.
The RBI and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development were the nodal agencies for monitoring, but they themselves were relying on the data of lending institutions, without independently checking the veracity of claims by banks and cooperative societies. After the presentation of the draft report to the government in January, the CAG noted that the DFS had asked the RBI and Nabard to take immediate corrective measures.