Supreme Court rejects plea against farm loan waiver

April 7th, 2008 - 8:59 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram

New Delhi, April 7 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday refused to entertain a plea questioning the government’s decision to write off farmers’ bank loans worth Rs.600 billion. A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran said the court would not delve into the issues related to the government polices.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram as part of his budget presented Feb 29 announced the move to provide relief to farmers from the debt burden that has forced many of them to commit suicide.

Questioning the rationality of the loan waiver scheme, petitioner M.L. Sharma sought relief for the farmers who had taken loans from private banks or individual moneylenders.

Sharma Monday argued that the scheme “benefited only those dishonest farmers, who did not pay the loans, but did not provide any relief to honest farmers who had already cleared their dues to the banks.”

Besides seeking a direction to the government to provide relief to the farmers from the debt trap of the private moneylenders as well, the petition also questioned the government’s figure of Rs.600 billion that would be written off as unrecoverable loans to the poor farmers.

Sharma, through his petition, sought to know the basis on which the government had arrived at the figure.

The advocate contended that there was no such huge amount of farmers’ debt with the nationalised banks.

Prior to Feb 29, 2008, according to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), no bank had any dead/sick agricultural loan in its balance sheets, the petitioner said.

“During the last five years, several banks like Punjab National Bank, Dena Bank, UCO Bank and State Bank of India have already come up with their public issue and none of them had declared having any unrecoverable agricultural loan in their balance sheets,” the petition said.

In the absence of any concrete data to determine the exact amount as Rs.600 billion, the petitioner said, “it is nothing more than an election fund under the garb of farmers loan which is being withdrawn from the treasury by the politicians”.

He demanded that politicians should be kept out of distribution of funds under the scheme.

He also sought a direction to the finance ministry and the RBI to place a list of banks and the unpaid loan amount due to them from farmers.

When the advocate said that private moneylenders should also be brought under the ambit of the scheme, the bench observed that it was not possible for it to pass such directions.

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