Maharashtra: No possibility of biometric authentication, state’s loan waiver process to be delayed

Parthasarathi Biswas
COVID-19 outbreak: No possibility of biometric authentication, state's loan waiver process to be delayed

An estimated Rs 34,000 crore worth of loans of over 36 lakh accounts is expected to be waived under the scheme.

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is all set to put temporary brakes on the state government’s farm loan waiver disbursal process. Fingerprint-based authentication, which is imperative for the process, is impossible to carry out during the lockdown across the country, and this is bound to delay implementation of the scheme, said officials.

The Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Shetkari Karj Mukti Yojana is a flagship programme of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. The scheme aims to waive outstanding crop loan from April 1, 2015 till March 31, 2019, with a ceiling of up to Rs 2 lakh.

An estimated Rs 34,000 crore worth of loans of over 36 lakh accounts is expected to be waived under the scheme.

While presenting the 2020-21 state budget earlier this month, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had claimed that Rs 9,035-crore worth of outstanding loans of 13.86 lakh farmers has been waived off since the scheme was announced.

To implement the schemes, banks have to share details of outstanding loan amounts and accounts with the state government, which then authenticates the same with their data. Each gram panchayat has to prepare its own list and individual farmers have to share bio-metric data to authenticate their Aadhaar-linked bank accounts, after which they get the waiver amount in their loan accounts.

As the process requires farmers to come to the bank to authenticate their account and share bio-metric data, the spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown have put brakes on the scheme. The process of biometric authentication has come to a complete halt in urban areas, as well as rural areas like Islampur (Sangli), Ahmednagar and Yavatmal, given the urgent need for social distancing.

Senior officials of the state Cooperation department said the pandemic has seen all arms of the state government being deployed on war footing to control the virus. While the scheme may have been inadvertently put on the back-burner, once the pandemic is brought under control, it will be re-started, said department officials.

“Given that the cut-off date of the scheme is March 2019, the question of what happens if farmers default on their loans now does not arise,” said the official.

Even for the upcoming kharif season, disbursal of crop loans may be delayed due to the pandemic.