Now, a loan scam

The Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report on the sloppy implementation of the UPA government’s 2008 loan waiver scheme is yet another source of embarrassment for the scam-hit government.

The report, tabled in Parliament, has blamed the department of financial services of the finance ministry for the deficiencies in the implementation of the scheme. The farmers’ debt waiver scheme was the government’s much-touted relief package for poor farmers before the 2009 elections. It harvested  a  good political crop from the scheme in the elections. The three states which got the highest allocation  – Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and UP – were the ones where the UPA did exceptionally well. But it now turns out that the claim of providing succour to the indigent farmers was grossly overstated.

The CAG has found that several ineligible persons secured the loan waiver benefit and many deserving and small and marginal farmers did not get it. While 34 lakh ineligible persons were given relief, 24 lakh deserving farmers were denied it. The CAG’s report is based on a sample of 9,334 accounts in nine states but they are indicative of the shoddy way in which the scheme was implemented everywhere. Since the report is based on samples the full amount involved in the scam has not been quantified.

But it is estimated that Rs 10,000 crore of the Rs 54,000 crore spent must have gone into wrong hands. The CAG has pointed out that there was no system to assess the eligibility of the beneficiary and no monitoring of the implementation. It has also been found that records were apparently tampered with and altered to cover up wrong decisions.

It has for long been observed that such schemes suffer from poor execution. It is not the targeted persons but rich and undeserving people and middle men who corner most of the benefits. Farmers’ suicides continued in many states where the loans had been waived. There were also reports that some farmers in AP were selling organs to avoid the debt trap. The prime minister has promised stringent action against those who committed irregularities.

It may have been bank and co-operative society officials and lower level politicians who misappropriated the money. But those at higher administrative and political levels who failed to ensure that such a big scheme was implemented properly are also guilty. The guilty persons should be brought to book and money should be recovered from those who undeservedly benefitted from the scheme. 

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