MUMBAI: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was caught on the backfoot on Tuesday after questions were raised over 813 beneficiaries of crop loan waiver in Mumbai which has no farmland at all.
Fadnavis, however, said the government will verify the credentials of each beneficiary before waiving off their crop loans. The Chief Minister's Office (CMO) on Tuesday released a list of district-wise number of beneficiaries.
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had challenged Fadnavis to declare the names of 40 lakh beneficiaries after the mega loan waiver of over Rs 34,000 crore was announced recently. Accordingly, the list was released by the CMO officials on social media.
However, the list showed there were 694 farmers in Mumbai city district and 119 farmers in Mumbai Suburban district who were eligible for loan waiver. As soon as the list was made public, questions were raised about who these farmers were and where were their farms in Mumbai.
When asked, Fadnavis said he too was puzzled by the figures. "I too was puzzled when I saw the figures and I immediately asked the officials to verify. However, I assure you that credentials of all the beneficiaries would be verified and no undue favours would be extended," he said.
As expected, from the figures it appears that the loan waiver has benefited Vidarbha and Marathwada regions the most. In the list of 36,10,216 beneficiaries of the loan waiver, Buldana in Western Vidarbha, which is the home district of agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar, is at the top with 2,49,818 beneficiaries.
Its adjacent district Yavatmal is second with 2,42,417 beneficiaries, while Beed in Marathwada has 2,08,480 beneficiaries. However, there was no mention of Wardha district of Eastern Vidarbha in the list.
Mumbai, its suburbs and adjoining Palghar are the districts with the least number of beneficiaries.
The list comprised of district-wise number of farmers who would get the benefit of Rs 1.5 lakh loan waiver, said a CMO official. Apart from these farmers, there would be farmers who would benefit from the one-time settlement whose numbers were not included in the list, the official claimed, adding that the third set of beneficiaries would get an incentive of up to Rs 25,000 for their regularity in repaying the loan. In all, the number was expected to reach around 89 lakh as claimed by the CM while announcing the loan waiver.
Present and past ministers, MPs, MLAs, ZP members, corporators, Central and state government employees, taxpayers and traders eligible for VAT had already been exempted from the loan waiver.
The opposition said the figures were bogus and the government was doing injustice to Western Maharashtra.
State Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant claimed the figures issued by the government were not authentic. "According to SLBC reports, total number of loan accounts in Buldana was 2,35,839. In such a case, how could the number of beneficiaries of waiver of 1.5 lakh exceed this number? Same is the case with Yavatmal district," he said.
NCP's Shashikant Shinde criticised the eligibility criteria and said it was an injustice to Western Maharashtra as it was fixed in such a way that it won't benefit farmers from the region at all.