First the 2G scam blew away the senses of the people of the country, and then with the Commonwealth Games the entire world came to know that nothing can be done in this country without corruption. One after another, a series of scandals hogged the lime light. When the series of scandals continued, people began to take the Government scandals as ‘fated’. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh kept on giving false assurances to stop corruption, but he did not take any serious step. The decline of morality in the political arena has reached such a level that Ministers and leaders, in spite of getting caught in scandals boldly offer arguments and when arguments do not work, start giving threats.
In the coming days the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government is again going to face a set of questions and a new lot of difficulties. A new scandal of rupees 52 thousand crores has come to the fore front. In this scandal, money has been illegally distributed in the name of poor farmers. A lot of irregularities have been found in this scheme for waiving the loans of farmers. People who were not even eligible took advantage of this scheme and poor farmers did not get any benefits from it. The striking thing is that the maximum benefit of this scheme went to States where the Congress got more seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has found irregularities in this scheme for giving loan relief to farmers. The biggest questions : whether political advantage was taken in the name of agri loans ? Whether this scheme is linked with the elections ? Whether the benefits of the scheme were utilised by political workers instead of poor farmers? If irregularities have taken place, whether the CAG will provide the sort of report which will expose the actions of the Manmohan Singh Government? There is information that the CAG along with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are investigating those people who have availed of the benefits of this scheme. In 2008, before the General Elections, the UPA Government had declared the strategy of waiving the loans of farmers. As per the scheme, 70,000 crores of rupees which was the amount of loans to farmers were to be waived. As soon as the Government declared this strategy, there was joy among the poor farmers. Some people described this decision as a ‘historic decision’. The
benefit of this scheme would have gone to those farmers who had taken loans from banks for agriculture.
However, this decision was more a political tactic rather than the logic of economics of the economist Prime Minister. Elections were to be held in 2009. From the time the UPA Government was formed, farmers were under stress, because Manmohan Singh was cutting down subsidies which were being given in the agricultural sector and he was obsessed with providing more and more benefits to the corporate world. The farmers are the ones who give votes in the elections, so to
reduce the anger of these farmers, the Manmohan Singh Government played the master stroke of waiving loans.
As per the scheme the Government waived loans of approximately 3, 75, 00, 000 farmers. The funny part is that the Congress got a lot of benefits from this. There was a total distribution of 11,000 crore rupees in Andhra Pradesh. In the Lok Sabha elections 33 candidates of the Congress became Members of Parliament from Andhra. This meant that the Congress got a huge majority in Andhra Pradesh. In the same way wherever this scheme had a successful start, the Congress party won in all those places. But amazing results were seen in Uttar Pradesh. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the status of the Congress party became the same as that of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, even though the Congress neither had any notable leader nor did they have support with them. The benefit of this scheme went to the Congress in Maharashtra also. The Congress party occupied 69 seats from these three states alone.
If a strategy is made to waive the loans of the landless, small and poor farmers, then also the argument of the Government could be understood. But if they make schemes in the name of the poor and provide benefits to the rich farmers then it is not just a fraud, it is a scandal as well. This scandal is even more dangerous than that of the 2G and the Coal Scam.
The question is this : who are the people who have earned the benefits of this scheme in these states ? The scheme was made for poor farmers. Did they get its benefits, or are the people who earned the benefits of this scheme political leaders?
When this scheme was announced, many people had expressed their doubts and felt that the benefit of this strategy will go only to the rich farmers, because the banks anyway do not give loans to the poor farmers. The bank officials do not give loans to the poor farmers very easily, so the poor farmers borrow money from the local money lenders. This reality is known even to people who have very little information about villages. That the Indian Government and its officials do not know about this reality is hard to believe. In spite of this, before the Lok Sabha elections in 2009, starting the strategy of waiving the loans of farmers was a clear indication that the intention of the Government was something quite different and providing benefits to the farmers was just a pretext. The actual motive was to use this scheme in a political manner.
Here starts the story of one more scandal of the UPA Government.
One of those incidents, where for the first time money, from the Government treasury was illegally distributed among political leaders and supporters. Previously officials, Ministers, leaders and big businessmen formed a nexus to execute such scandalous plans. During the tenure of the UPA Government many such plans were started, which dragged the common people into scandals and corruption. Many people are involved in the scandal which has happened in the scheme for waiving the loans of farmers.
By going a bit deeper it becomes apparent that this scheme has been used politically. The maximum number of farmers loans were waived in Tamil Nadu. At that time, there was a coalition Government of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Congress in Tamil Nadu. After this, the highest expenditure as per the scheme was made in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. As per this scheme 52 per cent out of the total amount was spent in 6 states and in states or Union Territories (UTs) governed by the Centre, where there was a Congress Government or the Government of a UPA coalition, viz., Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Chandigarh. The funny thing is that the Congress won most of the seats from these states/UTs in the Lok Sabha elections. Once again the question : does this scheme have any relation with politics?
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a world famous economist, but it seems he does not use his knowledge in making such schemes. According to the RBI, from 2000 to 2010, the disbursement of agri loans has increased by 775 per cent, but neither has there been any increase in production nor has there been any increase in the agriculture related market. The most surprising thing is that no decrease has been seen in the loans taken by the farmers from the moneylenders. On the other hand the Planning Commission gives the information that out of the 12.8 crore land farmer owners, almost 8 crore farmers are still outside the institutional system of taking loans. This has a clear meaning : that the small and the landless farmers, who are in greatest need of money, are unable to use these strategies. Apart from this, the other thing which has come to light is that the big farmers, who have their reach till the banks take agri loans, but they use this money for non agricultural purposes. This means that they are misusing this loan with excessive subsidy.
They take loans from the banks at a lower interest rate, but put this money as a fixed deposit in some other bank and pick 4.5 per cent interest sitting in their homes or invest that money in another attractive financial scheme where they earn much more profit. They feel that the Government will waive the loans during the time of election, so they do not make any payment. The Central Government is aware of these realities, but in spite of this the Government by announcing waiver of agri loans in 2008 left a negative impact on the loan repayments. The UPA Government did not just stop here. The people who pay their loans on time — they were given a concession of 2 per cent interest. A wrong impact was seen in this also. The real picture of giving loans to farmers is that the big farmers take advantage of the benefits given by the banks on agri loans and the small and poor farmers do not take advantage of these schemes. One more important aspect in this case is that the banks which give loans to the farmers have a list of those people to whom they give loans again and again. An investigation should be done on that list, so that it can be known whether the banks too are involved in this illegal distribution or not.
If a strategy is made to waive the loans of the landless, small and poor farmers, then also the argument of the Government could be understood. But if they make schemes in the name of the poor and provide benefits to the rich farmers then it is not just a fraud, it is a scandal as well. This scandal is even more dangerous than that of the 2G and the Coal Scam. In big scandals the credibility and goodwill of any leader or Minister is spoilt, but when the scandal spreads in practical terms, when in the name of poor the scandals are executed in a planned manner, then the common man loses his faith on the Government and democracy. If any scheme is made to give relief to the poor farmers then who is going to have any objection to it, but if the Government earmarks the money of the people in the name of the poor and uses it for its own interest there should be strong protests against it. An investigation should be made in such a case. The CAG should present a detailed report on this scheme, so that the people who benefitted from this scheme can be identified. It is important that the common people of the country should know how the money of the people is being illegally distributed in the name of the poor. And how just before the elections, announcements are made to accrue benefits for the party workers and their supporters instead of the common people.
The Central Government has started this political game once again. The banks are distributing a handsome amount in the form of agri loans in New Delhi and Chandigarh, whereas they are giving a lesser amount of loans in comparison to the actual need in backward state like Bihar. According to the 2011 population census, the total population of Delhi is 1.66 crores, out of which only 4.19 lakh reside in villages. Even in Chandigarh out of a total population of nearly 11 lakh only a mere 29 thousand people live in villages. In spite of this the banks gave loans of more than 32,400 crores rupees in 2009-10 in these two states governed by the Centre. Whereas, during this period the farmers of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Jharkhand were only given a total loan amount of rupees 31,000 crores. However the Central Government keeps on saying that they have given an order to the banks to give agri loans of 5.75 lakh crore this year. But giving agri loans to cities like Delhi and Chandigarh will be of no use. The thing to understand here is that both these places are cities. Where do you find farmers here?
Where there are poor farmers, where the farmers are committing suicide, like in Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand, the least amount of loans were provided. This means that where the farmers are more in numbers, where the land area is more, and which is also happens to be amongst the poorest states, there is no benefit for the farmers. But in cities, where agriculture is not done, where there are the least numbers of farmers, there the loan amounts in the name of the ‘farmers’ are more. This clearly suggests that there is something very suspicious. If the Government plays a game of waiving the loans of farmers again before the elections then it is quite clear that it is worried less about the economy and more about winning the elections.
People are probably now aware what the conclusions of the CAG report will be, because if the CAG makes the Government stand in the court then the Ministers of the UPA would argue that the CAG does not have any right to speak on the strategies of the Government. Secondly, the Government, through the media, will start to highlight the deficiencies of the CAG report. There will be a debate on what is the limit to the rights of the CAG. And the Election Commission will have to come forward to save democracy in the country ! All the seductive schemes declared before the elections must be completed and a curb must be put on the Government. Otherwise, given the prevailing situation and keeping the 2014 elections in mind, it seems that in the coming Budget the Government will make announcements of schemes to waive the loans of farmers, end subsidies and give direct cash and then conduct elections. If the Supreme Court, the CAG and the Election Commission of the country don’t act then a new chapter in political corruption will begin – a shameful new chapter that will use money meant for poor people. n