Next elections near, Ashok Gehlot govt struggles to meet farm loan waiver promise of 2018 – The Indian Express

Days before the 2018 Rajasthan Assembly elections, then Congress president Rahul Gandhi had declared at a massive rally in Pokharan in Jaisalmer on that if his party came to power in the state, it would waive farm loans from nationalised banks within 10 days.
Since then, BJP leaders including former CM Vasundhara Raje have acknowledged in public meetings that the farm loan waiver announcement had played a role in the Congress’s return to power and the ouster of her incumbent BJP government.
But more than four years later, with the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government into the fifth and final year of its term before fresh Assembly elections, the promise remains only partially fulfilled, courtesy an impasse between Jaipur and New Delhi.
Documents furnished by the state government in reply to a question in the Assembly recently reveal that while the Congress government has waived off Rs 15,000 crore — including Rs 7,000 crore that were waived off by the Raje government in its last year in 2018 — of all agricultural loans availed by farmers from state cooperative banks, its promise of the same for loans availed from nationalised banks, scheduled commercial banks and regional rural banks, remains unfulfilled.
Gehlot had said last year that the state had waived off farm loans of 22 lakh farmers.
After the Congress won in 2018, it had announced its loan waiver plan through an order issued by the state Cooperative Department on December 19 that year, which said that all short-term crop loans availed by eligible farmers from state cooperative banks that were outstanding on November 30, 2018 (the day Rahul Gandhi made the promise), would be waived off.
The order added that loan waivers of up to Rs 2 lakh, from all nationalised, scheduled and regional rural banks, would apply to “financially weak” and “defaulting” farmers.
As per the state government’s reply to a question asked by BJP leader and Deputy Leader of Opposition Rajendra Rathore in the latest session of the state Assembly, as on November 30, 2018, the amount of non-performing assets (NPA) rising from farm loans in nationalised, scheduled and regional banks, stood at Rs 6,018.93 crore against 3,49,257 farmers, of which Rs 5,638.47 crore was eligible for the waiver announced by the Congress government.
The government reply adds that according to the State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC), till October 31 last year, NPA amount of Rs 4,182.04 crore against 2,50,773 farmers, had been repaid/upgraded, and that at present, an NPA sum of Rs 1,819.10 crore against 95,629 farmers, remained pending.
A top Rajasthan SLBC official told The Indian Express that till date, the state government and the banks have not managed to reach an agreement on the waiver.
According to documents furnished by the state government, between 2019 and December 2021, Gehlot wrote multiple letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, urging the Centre to intervene and have the nationalised banks implement the one-time farm-loan settlement scheme.
In his letter to Modi dated December 27, 2021, Gehlot acknowledged that loanees of public sector banks (other than cooperative banks) were not being able to avail the state government’s farm loan waiver scheme. “We had requested public sector banks to come out with OTS schemes whereby if 90% waiver in respect of three years or more crop loan account is extended, the State Government would be willing to consider bearing the burden of 10% on behalf of the loanee farmers. Till date we have not received a positive response from any of the public sector banks. Thus, it is requested that suitable directions may be issued from the Central Government to various public sector banks for this purpose,” reads Gehlot’s letter to the PM.
On April 11, 2022, Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar, wrote back to the CM, referring to his December 2021 letter: “It is requested to you that if the state government finds it prudent, then, like the aforementioned other states, you are free to bear the complete amount of the loan,” Union Minister Tomar wrote to Gehlot, citing examples of states like Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, adding that all these states have borne all farm loan waiver expenses from their respective treasuries.
The BJP has repeatedly cornered the state government over the pending farm loan waiver from these banks, accusing the Congress of reneging on its promise. Regarding the Centre’s attitude on the issue, Congress spokesperson Swarnim Chaturvedi said, “By waiving off the farm loans from state cooperative banks, we have done what was in our hand. We had asked the Centre to ask the nationalised and other banks to agree to our proposal of a one-time settlement for farm loans. But the BJP government at the Centre is hindering the welfare of farmers by showing a step motherly attitude, just because Rajasthan is a Congress-ruled state.”
In September 2022, Rajasthan Chief Secretary Usha Sharma wrote to the Secretary, Department of Financial Services, Government of India, to direct the banks to formulate a scheme for the one-time settlement.
Earlier this month, Rajasthan minister for Planning, Mamta Bhupesh, told the state Assembly that while the government is committed to waive off the loans availed from nationalised, scheduled and regional rural banks, no bank management has so far agreed upon the 90:10 one-time settlement proposal.
According to agenda notes of the 156th meeting of the Rajasthan SLBC, held on March 10, formulation of a Debt Waiver Scheme for banks other than cooperative ones is being processed.
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Deep MukherjeeDeep Mukherjee is a senior correspondent based in Jaipur. He covers Ra… read more


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