Farm loan waiver unprecedented success: Chidambaram (Lead)

July 1st, 2008 - 8:09 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram

New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) About 40 million small and marginal farmers in India Tuesday were relieved of over Rs.716.8 billion debt under the government’s loan-waiver scheme, announced in February this year. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram Tuesday termed the scheme’s achievement as “a remarkable and unprecedented success”, something achieved without receiving any complaints from any of 17,479 branches of public sector banks.

June 30 was the deadline to put up the list of eligible beneficiaries and simultaneously process their applications for fresh loans so that farmers do not face funds crunch before the cultivation of kharif (summer) crops begin.

“Many critics had doubts about the success of the scheme but we have successfully completed the most ambitious programme of the government,” Chidambaram said Tuesday after opening 101 online branches of the state-run State Bank of India (SBI) here.

“Not a single complaint was received from 17,479 branches of public sector banks across the country about implementation of the loan waiver scheme,” Chidambaram said.

Chidambaram hoped that the scheme’s successful implementation would give an impetus of agricultural productivity in India, which logged 4.5 percent growth in 2007-08 against the estimate of 2.6 percent.

“Imagine not a single crime is reported from 1,000 police stations, and then we can take pride in the law and order situation,” the finance minister added.

Chidambaram also offered the sanction letter of a fresh loan of Rs.50,000 to Om Prakash, a farmer from Gurgaon, after the SBI wrote off his near-Rs.100,000 farm loan.

Arif Hussain, another farmer from Gurgaon, just across the border from the national capital, received a fresh loan of Rs.50,000 after SBI waived off his earlier debt of Rs.90,000.

“It is a big relief to me and my family. I am grateful to the government and officials of SBI’s Ojino branch in Gurgaon,” Arif said after receiving the relevant documents for fresh loan from Chidambaram.

“It was a great scheme, and effectively implemented,” said SBI chairman and managing director O.P. Bhatt.

Bhatt said his bank had waived off loans of Rs.60 billion owed by nearly two million small and marginal farmers.

The government in May this year increased the size of the scheme to Rs.716.8 billion ($17 billion) from the Rs.600 billion set initially. The waiver will enable beneficiaries to get fresh loans for the kharif season.

Under the loan-waiver scheme, the public sector Punjab National Bank (PNB) waived off loans of over Rs.11 billion benefiting around 400,000 farmers.

“We are constantly in touch with the branches. Every possible effort has been made to ensure that no eligible farmer suffers any loss of time in getting fresh loans,” said PNB general manager Govind Banerjee.

UCO Bank has waived agriculture loans of Rs.26.25 billion, its chairman and managing director S.K. Goyal said in Kolkata Monday.

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