Thousands of farmers in Madhya Pradesh find themselves trapped amid loan waivers, bonus and price difference payment

The state government had launched a scheme in 2017, under which farmers were supposed to receive the difference in the market price and the minimum support price. However, they are unhappy over the delay in payments

Mithilesh DharMithilesh Dhar   5 Nov 2019 8:21 AM GMT

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Thousands of farmers in Madhya Pradesh find themselves trapped amid loan waivers, bonus and price difference payment

Salim Patel, 37, a farmer living in Dharampuri village, 30 kms from Indore district, hopes -- even after a year -- that the government would pay him the price difference of Rs 1 lakh.

He said: "In 2018, I had sold 1 quintal of soybean. That time, as per the price difference scheme, there was a difference of Rs 500 which the government had to pay me. But then the election happened, and the government changed with which my payment of Rs 1 lakh got stuck."

"Whenever I go to the vegetable wholesale market, I inquire from the official about the money due to me under price difference scheme. They reply simply that there hasn't been any futher notification from the authorities and that only when the funds would be released, I shall be paid my dues. A lakh being a huge amount, I can only hope that the government will understand a farmer's predicament," Salim shares his pain with Gaon Connection.

To shield the farmers from the fluctuations in the market prices, Madhya Pradesh government had, in 2017, launched 'Mukhyamantri Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojna' (the price difference payment scheme). Under the scheme, the government had proposed to pay to the farmers the difference in the market price and the minimum support price (MSP). However, the farmers were unhappy over the delay in payments.

The Kamal Nath government shall complete one year in office on December 17, which falls next month. Resuming power in the state after a long gap of 15 years, the Congress saw its veteran leader Kamal Nath take charge as the 18th chief minister of the state on December 17, 2018. Within a few hours of swearing in as the CM, Kamal Nath had foremostly signed on the farmers' loan waiver file.

During the 2018 Vidhan Sabha elections, the Congress mandate, promising loan waivers up to Rs 2 lakh, had attracted people's interest. Post elections, poll experts hailed the move as a turning point since the farmer population of Madhya Pradesh exceeds 55 lakh.

As soon as his government assumed power, Kamal Nath sent out the message that his was a pro-farmer government. Under this, he launched a scheme named 'Jai Kisan Rin Mukti Yojana' (the farmer loan waiving scheme) with a budget of Rs 50,000 crore. After a few months, the government had promised a bonus of Rs 160 upon wheat.

But are the farmers in the state pleased with the Kamal Nath government? In order to find out, we talked to the farmers of several districts in Madhya Pradesh and tried to assess how far the government has been successful in delivering its mandate.

CM Kamal Nath launched a scheme named 'Jai Kisan Rin Mukti Yojana' (the farmer loan waiving scheme) with a budget of Rs 50,000 crore.

What happened to the farmer loan waiver scheme?

Narayan Kherwa, 65, a farmer living in Harda district Alanpur village is worried about his loan remaining unwaived despite having received a loan waiver certificate. He informed, "In 2018, my son had taken a loan of Rs 1.12 lakh from the cooperative bank out of which 52,380 remained to be repaid. This year, I was issued a certificate of loan waiver on February 25 and was told that my loan had been waived off -- the notification of which I was to receive shortly after from the bank."

"I had thought that my loan had been waived off but one day when I had gone to the cooperative board to fetch seeds, I was told that I was a defaulter and I would first have to repay my loan. Thereafter, I visited the bank where the nodal officer informed me that my loan had not been waived off so far and I would be notified when it should happen," informed Narayan.

Madhya Pradesh sees an internal tussle between the Congress leaders regarding the issue of farmer loan waiver. A few days ago, addressing a rally in Bhind on October 11, senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia had said, "Not all farmers' loans have been waived so far. As against our promise of loan waiver for up to Rs 2 lakh, we could only manage waving loans up to Rs 50 thousand."

Thereafter, the state's Food and Civil Supplies Minister Pradyumn Singh Tomar had also supported Jyotiraditya Scindia's opinion. However, the PWD minister Sajjan Singh Verma had confronted Scindia in support of the government. During an interaction with the journalists, he said, "Scindia's concern is limited to the farmers belonging to his constituency, this is why he speaks like that. Since the opposition doesn't have an issue, this gentleman is providing it with one. Kamal Nath has a natural flair to deal with challenges. He is today's Abhimanyu for he knows how to pierce through a chakravyuh."

Following this, Kamal Nath had put forth his views on the issue of loan waiving. In a press conference, he had admitted, "Scindia speaks the truth for we have waived loans only up to Rs 50,000 in the first phase. It is during the second phase, we would undertake to waive off loans worth up to Rs 2 lakh. I have a firm belief that the public has full faith in its leader."

Under the scheme, the farmers were made to fill up three differently coloured forms at the onset and it was promised by the government that 55 lakh farmers would benefit from loan waiving. It was also told that those farmers who have more than 2 lakh loan will get loan relief for up to Rs 2 lakh.

Going as per Kamal Nath's statement, first phase of the scheme has already achieved loan waiving for the farmers in below Rs 50,000 loan bracket. We, however, came across several farmers who had loans in the said bracket and yet did not benefit from the scheme.

Harda's farmer leader Ram Inaniya opined, "The Congress had come to power in Madhya Pradesh only upon its promise of farmer loan waiver. It was good that the government wasted no time in acting upon it when assuming power. However, they had never mentioned that the waiver would be done in phases. Firstly, they kept private banks out of its purview, then they added that only loans under Rs 50,000 taken from the cooperative banks would be waived off. Now they are talking of waiving off loans up to Rs 2 lakh."

"But, in fact, there are several farmers around my village whose loans are below Rs 50,000 and which haven't been waived off," Ram Inaniya added.

Subsequently, we met up with certain farmers who had taken loans up to Rs 50,000. They also had been issued loan waiver certificates without actual loans being waived off by the banks.

Farmer Rajesh Saran from Harda's Badgaon said: "Last year, I had taken Rs 14,000 loan from the society in order to buy fertilizers. I had thought my loan, being much less than Rs 50,000, would be waived off, but it wasn't so."

Mohanlal of Mandsaur district's Garoth has about 10 acres of land. Drawing a loan of Rs 97,000, he had sown soybean this year which got ruined due to heavy rains. He said: "I had taken a loan of Rs 97,000 and now am a defaulter of Rs 50,000. I received the certificate of loan waiver in May, but no loan has been waived off. Bank has not deducted the premium for my crop insurance this year."

"This year my entire crop got ruined. Had I insured my crop, it would have helped me tide over the loss, but then I wasn't extended crop insurance as I am a defaulter. Neither my crops were insured nor could I secure the loan waiver," Mohanlal added.

Many farmers in the state are bearing the brunt of heavy rainfall, which from the past two months has been damaging soybean and urad crop.

Kedar Sirohi, the head of Madhya Pradesh division of Kisan Congress, sides with the government on the issue. He said: "All those farmers whose loan was with the nationalized banks's Madhya Pradesh have received loan waivers. Certain farmers who drew from the cooperative banks faced problems and others who took loans from other sources could not be helped."

Why are the farmers facing difficulties? Kedar Sirohi illustrates with an example, "Suppose I had drawn loans worth Rs 50,000 but from two different sources out of which Rs 30,000 is regular loan whereas Rs 20,000 is defaulting. We issued the certificate for Rs 50,000 whereas the bank waived off only the Rs 20,000 loan on which I was defaulting. Farmers will have to understand this."

"Farmers are not aware. This is why they feel that the government is not waiving off their loans. It is not so. By next year, we would waive off all farmers' loan worth up to Rs 2 lakh," Sirohi assures.

"During 2016-18, Madhya Pradesh suffered drought due to which farmers' short term loans were converted to mid-term loans. So, this way, mid-term loans got waived off since they came into defaulter category while short-term loans remain to be paid as they belong to the regular category. Around 22 lakh farmers have already benefitted from the scheme, while 12 lakh farmers are yet to be helped," informed Sirohi.

Short-term loans are pretty much like personal loans, but their payback time is much shorter whereas repayment of a mid-term or medium-term loan can be done up to 3-5 years.

Palri village, which adjoins Mandsaur district headquarters, has its farmer Bhuwanilal, 55, waiting for the payment of Rs 1.5 lakh under price difference payment scheme. He said: "In the 2018 rabi season, I had sold 300 quintals of soybean. At that time, there was a price difference of Rs 500 in our regional market. The then chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan had assured the payment of Rs 500 per quintal as price difference, but as soon as the government changed, the scheme was abandoned. No one knows whether we would get our dues or not."

In March, the state government had announced the bonus of Rs 160 per quintal on wheat to the farmers, but the farmers have not received any money as a bonus so far.

The present state government admits that about Rs 1,000 crore payment is yet to be done to the farmers as the price difference. When in March, chief minister Kamal Nath had announced the bonus of Rs 160 on wheat for the farmers, he did mention the pending payments of the price difference scheme.

He had said, "About Rs 1 crore of the price difference scheme must be shouldered by the Modi government as such schemes are run in partnership by both central and state governments. So, when the central government releases its share to the state government, the latter will immediately disburse it after adding its own contribution."

In March, the state government had announced the bonus of Rs 160 per quintal on wheat to the farmers, but the farmers have not received any money as a bonus so far.

Farmer Anil Kumar of Harda's Alanpur village awaits his bonus of Rs 45,000. He said: "In April, I had sold about 300 quintals of wheat which includes my brother's share. For this, I was supposed to receive Rs 45,000 as bonus in my bank account but so far, I haven't received a penny."

About this Kedar Sirohi said: "Nine lakh farmers have sold wheat in the state. A budget of Rs 1,500 crore has already been approved for the purpose. The delay occurred due to code of conduct but we are working on it and within this week all farmers will be issued bonus money."

The national head of Kisan Jagriti Sangathan, Irfan Jafri, is quite upset with this attitude of the state government. He said: "Why did the Congress not tell it before the election that the waivers will be handed out in instalments over a period of two years? The governments may change, but the farmers' state remains as deplorable as ever. Jhabua had by-elections so the farmers there were given bonus-money. This clearly shows that even this government will play politics over farmers instead of doing them any good."

It is true that before the by-elections, Jhabua's 17,000 farmers were given loan waivers. This has been confirmed by Madhya Pradesh Congress on Twitter which had been retweeted by chief minister Kamal Nath."

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