A Cruel Joke!

When a Samajwadi Party leader came out with the shocking information that some farmers in Uttar Pradesh have been given loan waivers of just 19 paisa, the first reaction was to laugh and say—'that can't be true, it is just a political falsehood to malign the Adityanath government'.

Then a leading newspaper published an interview-based report giving more details. It said that after the UP government's announcement that farm loans up to one lakh rupees had been waived and official certificates were being given to individual farmers, there were many cases where farmers have received waivers worth 19 paisa or 50 paisa or two rupees.

Specifically, in Etawah district, one farmer was quoted as saying : "I have been given a certificate saying 19 paisa of my loan amount has been waived. I have visited a number of officials, but nobody is able to explain. I have become a laughingstock in my village".

That this is not "fake news" has been confirmed by the Adityanath government itself. Admitting that there "are some cases when less than Rs 100 loan relief may have been given", an official press statement from Lucknow has come out with long-winded explanations and justifications.

The statement actually confirms that 4,814 farmers have received amounts between Re 1 and Rs 100 and that another 5,553 farmers have received amounts up to Rs 500.

The government's contention is that the media is unnecessarily focusing on these 10,000-odd farmers instead of looking at the 41,690 farmers who have got between Rs 1,000 and 10,000.

When asked whether the paltry amounts of less than Rs 100 can be of any earthly use to the recipients had no answer. Asked whether the amounts of less than one rupee are not a cruel joke, the official reaction was to show irritation.

Despite repeated attempts by reporters to find out whether it was just a clerical error or a mathematical mistake, and whether the pathetic amounts would be revised, the state government's information department refused to answer. One minister dealing with the loan waiver scheme flatly declined to comment and another made himself unavailable to the press.

Nor is there any clarity on the basis of which the loan waiver amounts were calculated—does the scheme cover only a small portion of the interest accrued on the loan amount or is it meant to waive the entire arrears of principal plus interest?

All that the State's agriculture minister Surya Pratap Shahi was willing to say was that the total quantum of loans waived so far was Rs 7,400 crore. This is a huge sum of money, he kept stressing. According to him, nearly 12 lakh farmers have been benefited and the average benefit per person works out to more than Rs 60,000.

But what is the use of mentioning an "average figure" of Rs 60,000 when so many individuals have got less than Rs 100? Does that mean that the smallest and poorest farmers have been fobbed off with ridiculously small sums like 19 paisa and 50 paisa, whereas the main beneficiaries are the super rich big farmers and the politically-influential absentee farm-owners who have been given colossal amounts perhaps exceeding many lakhs of rupees?

Logically, the arithmetic of averages clearly points to this gross distortion in disbursements. If 10,000 marginal cultivators get less than one hundred and another 50,000 get less than Rs 10,000, as the official statistics reveal, then it can only mean the affluent farmers at the other end of the scale received a huge portion of the total of Rs 7,400 crore.

Another question which seemed to greatly irritate the ministers and officials pertains to the design of the actual certificates issued—why do the certificates carry the photographs of Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi? Are the waiver certificates meant to be just documents to prove that loans have been waived or are they publicity leaflets to gain political mileage? Again there are no straight answers, only furious frowns.


Vol. 50, No.18, Nov 5 - 11, 2017