MUMBAI: The actual number of farmers who are expected to benefit from the Maharashtra government's loan waiver is likely to be less than the earlier estimate of 89 lakh, said officials of the state cooperation department.
Announcing the Rs 34,000-crore loan waiver scheme, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana, in June, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said 89 lakh farmers would benefit from it.
Last week, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil said at least 10 lakh bank accounts of farmers were fake and they will not get any benefit of the loan waiver.
His statement invited criticism from opposition leaders as well as farmer organisations.
However, the officials maintained Patil may not be widely off the mark.
When contacted, the department officials maintained that despite several reminders, the cooperative and public sector banks have failed to provide a detailed list of farmers having outstanding loan.
This has raised suspicion about the exact number of agriculturists having outstanding loans, they said.
Currently, farmers are in the process of filing applications for getting benefit under the scheme. The state government has extended the deadline from September 14 to 22 for receiving online applications from eligible cultivators.
State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) possesses details of all the banks and farmers having outstanding loans.
A senior officer from SLBC said, "Earlier, the practice was to handover an account number and write the outstanding loan amount next to it.
"In view of the 2007-8 loan waiver controversy, when undeserving loans were also settled, the current state government sought names of farmers as per the banks' record.
Banks had to make necessary changes to come up with a list of all the required details of farmers."
The department officials said despite several requests the banks have also not given the list of beneficiaries of 2007-8 loan waiver scheme.
"It has been said that some 70 lakh farmers from Maharashtra benefited from the 2007-8 loan scheme, but not a single name is available with any bank in the state. This is a serious issue and can't be allowed to happen again.
"Hence, we have undertaken the tedious task of finding the actual number of beneficiaries, which we think, would be less than 89 lakh," the officials said.
As per the scheme's guidelines, only one member’s outstanding loan in a family will be considered for waiver.
Despite this, every member in a family having some unpaid agricultural loan is filling the form and uploading it on the government’s portal. This practice would increase the documentation processing and verification time, they said.
As only one person in a family is going to be eligible for loan write-off, the actual number of beneficiaries will come down from earlier estimate, the officials added.
As on last Sunday, 1,00,85,326 farmers have registered themselves with the government for loan waiver. Of these, 55,40,732 have filled the required form and uploaded it on the government's website.