The Akhilesh Yadav government has virtually stepped on the gas in the Samajwadi Party’s election campaign for the coming Lok Sabha election by announcing a Rs1,650-crore loan waiver scheme for farmers in the state. Over seven lakh farmers are expected to benefit from this decision. However, opposition parties have expressed their reservations on the government’s ambitious move, saying the SP government has, in the past, failed to deliver on its promises.
UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav made the announcement of the loan waiver scheme at a press conference here on Thursday. The announcement was supposed to mark SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s 74th birthday which the party workers celebrated with great fervour at the party’s state headquarters here.
Informed party sources said the Akhilesh Yadav regime had taken the decision after considering how the UPA had reaped major electoral benefits from the farmers’ loan waiver in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. In the 2008-09 general budget, the UPA had announced a whopping Rs60,000-crore package to provide relief to the indebted farming community by waiving farmers’ loans just before the 2009 Lok Sabha election. About three crore small and marginal farmers had benefited from the debt waiver, while another one crore farmers are estimated to have got relief under the one-time settlement scheme.
All agricultural loans disbursed by scheduled commercial banks, regional rural banks and cooperative credit institutions up to 31 March 2007 and overdue as on 31 December 2007 were covered under the UPA-sponsored scheme. However, the Akhilesh Yadav government’s scheme covers loans disbursed by the co-operative rural development banks only.
Announcing the scheme, Akhilesh said the scheme would benefit farmers who had taken loans up to a maximum of Rs 50,000 pledging their lands as security. “We will not allow the farmers’ lands to be confiscated and auctioned for recovery of loans,” Akhilesh said, adding that the waiver was one of the promises listed in the SP manifesto for the UP Assembly election.
He said farmers who had repaid at least 10% of the loan amount till March 31 this year would be considered under this scheme, and their outstanding loan and interest amounts would be waived.
However, opposition parties are already carping about the SP government’s move. “This is clearly a populistic decision aimed at reaping electoral benefits,” said UP Congress president Nirmal Khatri.
“The SP just makes promises and forgets about them promptly,” said UP BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpayee. He said the government had promised laptops and tablet PCs to students but even after eight months of the SP regime, not a single PC had been given to any student. Similarly, the SP had promised the unemployment allowance to all jobless youth “but when it came to implementation, only a small fraction of the youth got it”, he added.