Even after all the failed promises of farm loan waiver and the disasters which sprung from Congress’ hollow affiances, the grand old party has expectantly once again included this artifice in its manifesto for the upcoming Haryana assembly polls.
Describing its manifesto for the upcoming assembly elections as ‘Sankalp Patra’, Congress party has promised to waive farm loans within the first 24 hours if voted to power. Amongst other things, the party has promised to give free rides to all women passengers on Haryana roadways buses and an allowance of Rs 3,500 per month for pregnant women till the birth of each child. The party also promised a 50 per cent reservation for women in Panchayati Raj institution, municipality corporations and city councils.
Even before publishing the manifesto, Haryana Congress has been promising farm loan waiver for last several months. In December last year, the party had promised to waive farm loans in Haryana. Former CM of the state Bhupinder Singh Hooda had said that his party will waive farm loans within six hours of forming the government in the Haryana.
To woo voters Congress has assured one job per family as per the qualifications. Also, an allowance of Rs 7,000 will be given to graduates and Rs 10,000 for a post-graduate until they secure a job, according to the manifesto.
The party has promised free health care services for poor and needy people. In its manifesto, the Congress has also promised the formation of Special Task Force to fight drug abuse in Haryana and drug rehabilitation centres will be opened in each village.
The Congress party which was on a high in last December after winning three major heartland states, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, plunged into deep crisis ever since it started faltering in fulfilling the extensive promises it made on waiving loans of farmers to garner votes for itself. Despite Rahul Gandhi’s bravado, it appears that farmers are suffering immensely in Congress regimes.
Let us analyse Congress’ misadventures and the politics of farm loan waivers in its ruling states.
The Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi who had claimed to ‘waive-off farmers loans in 10 days’ in Karnataka as soon as it came to power in the state, had been exposed after farmers in the state had been slapped with recovery notices by banks immediately after he Congress-JDS coalition government took the reigns of Karnataka in its hands.
Nearly twenty farmers of Ganajalkhed village, Kalaburgi district had received recovery notice from Andhra Bank on November 28, 2018, for the repayment of farm loans.
Speaking at an election rally in Jaisalmer district’s Pokhran constituency last year, Rahul Gandhi had made tall claims. He had said, “You may call and ask any farmer in Punjab and Karnataka and check whether their loans have been waived or not by the Congress party. I do not make false promises.”
Shockingly, it was found that the claim of the Congress was yet another lie as the farmers from Kalaburgi, one of the poorest regions of the state, were then asked to appear before Permanent Lok Adalat for final disposal of the petition filed by the bank.
While nationalised banks had initiated recovery suits, some private banks had even started criminal proceedings against defaulting farmers. Moreover, a series of farmer suicides were occurring in the state due to the failure of the state government to waive-off these farm loans.
A 56-year-old farmer named Hampanna Hoogar belonging to the district Bagalkot had been found dead after the debt-ridden farmer committed suicide. Soon after, Rajesh, a 42-year-old debt-ridden farmer had committed suicide after consuming pesticide at his farm in Basavalingangodi village of Maddur taluk, Mandya. Several farmers had also been issued notices after they failed to repay farm loans taken in various banks.
Following these unfortunate incidents, it was reported in January 2019, that farm loan burden had driven a family of six to commit suicide in Congress-ruled Karnataka. This incident had taken the farmer suicide toll to eight in Karnataka in a span of weeks.
Moreover, the Karnataka Congress-JDS coalition government were a part of a huge controversy after it took away the loan-waiver deposits from the account of the beneficiaries which were deposited before the elections. This move came after the Congress-JDS coalition lost in the Lok Sabha elections.
Nearly 13,988 farmers across Karnataka were shocked to find that the money which was earlier deposited in their accounts towards the loan waiver had been withdrawn after the JDS-Congress coalition government lost in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The farmers who had been allegedly cheated were up in arms, saying that the Congress-JDS state government deposited the money to lure them at the time of the elections and withdrew it after they lost it.
Despite the Congress President’s professed love for farmers, it appeared farmers have not been doing very well in Congress-ruled Punjab either. Days after Congress leaders boasted of clearing farm loans in Punjab, it was reported on January 5, 2019, that a 55-year old farmer has reportedly committed suicide in Bathinda, Punjab after he was unable to clear a debt of Rs 3.5 lakhs.
This was one of the many incidents which preceded in Congress-ruled Punjab as well. Days after the above incident, a debt-ridden farmer committed suicide on January 9, 2019, as his loan did not meet Congress government’s loan waiver criteria. Gurmel Singh allegedly committed suicide after he was unable to repay the farm loans. In his suicide note, the victim cited mounting debts as the reason and also stated that the state government did not provide any relief.
In fact, on January 27, 2019, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) had released new data stating that nearly 430 small and marginal farmers and farm labourers in Punjab had committed suicide in one year after the state government launched the third phase of the loan waiver scheme. The Congress government in Punjab had launched the third phase of loan waiver scheme for small farmers having land up to two hectares (5 acres). In the first two phases, the government had claimed to write-off loans of marginal farmers holding land up to one hectare.
Moreover, adding salt to the injuries of poor farmers, banks in Punjab had in February 2019, started filing criminal cases against farmers for non-repayment of loans. The farmers, on the other hand, claim that they were made to sign on blank cheques. An unnamed public sector banker was mentioned in the report admitting to the practice of obtaining blank cheques as security for farm loans. He blamed it on the loan waiver scheme of the Punjab government and its decision to ban the auction of mortgaged land to recover loans.
In Madhya Pradesh as well, the loan waiver promised by the Congress party had numerous terms and conditions which made many farmers ineligible for it. Reportedly, a massive loan-waive scam has also been brewing in the state of Madhya Pradesh after reports emerged that various beneficiaries listed by the government eligible for farmer loan waiver did not even exist in reality.
Many discrepancies and irregularities were unearthed in the loan waiver schemes. Moreover, there were reports of incidents where farmers had gotten a loan waiver of as little as 13 rupees against a loan of Rs. 24000 and Rs. 25-30 against loans of Rs. 1 lakh or more.
For this reason, the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh have been facing severe outrage from the farmers weeks after forming the government in the state. The farmers in Congress-ruled states have continued to commit suicide despite the farmer loan waiver scheme in place. In fact, within days after Congress government in MP waived off the loan, a farmer had committed suicide because he wasn’t eligible. In less than three weeks, as many as three farmers had committed suicide in Madhya Pradesh.
Amidst severe outrage, farmers had threatened ‘mass suicide’ over fake loans in Madhya Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi in December 2018 had boasted that the Congress government has succeeded in waiving loans of all farmers. However, the false promises of loan-waivers have created a stir amongst the poor farmers in the state.
Recently, Kamal Nath, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh had interestingly admitted that Congress does not have a magic wand and cannot waive loans within 10 days.
The Congress government is clearly finding it hard to implement his party’s poll promises made by Congress President Rahul Gandhi during his election campaigning. After the broken promises of loan-waivers consumed lives in Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh, the neighbouring state of Rajasthan has been facing similar farmer suicides on account of dubious promises of farm loan waiver made by the Congress-ruled government.
A 45-year-old farmer ended his life at Thakri village in Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar district on June 25, 2019, leaving behind a farewell video and a two-page note accusing the Ashok Gehlot government of failing to deliver its pre-poll promise of waiving bank loans.
After failing to waive-off farm loans in the Rajasthan, the Congress had come up with a way to blame the previous BJP regime for leaving the state in massive debt. Chief Minister Gehlot had said that the farm loan waiver involving cooperative banks would amount to Rs 18,000 crore at a time when the state was caught in debt of Rs 3 lakh crore left by the former BJP government.
In addition to this, a farm loan waiver scam appeared to be brewing in the state of Rajasthan after non-existent names appeared on the list surfaced in Rajasthan after the Congress government initiated the loan waiver scheme. Scores of names appeared in the list of beneficiaries for the farm loan waiver scheme who had no loans against their names raising suspicion on the intention of the farm loan waiver scheme by the Congress government.
The ruling Congress in Chhattisgarh, like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan is betting big on its farm debt-waiver schemes but its unfulfilled promises will end up hurting the grand old party. The Congress was elected to power late last year after promising to write-off loans of 35 lakh farmers in the state.
But cultivators were now in a dilemma as they were not getting loan clearance certificates from banks. In the absence of these certificates, they were not getting fresh loans for the ongoing farming activities.
Due to this, the farmers are feeling cheated by the Congress government and resentment has been brewing amongst them. BJP which is at the opposition in Chhattisgarh claimed that a farmer, Mohan Ram Nirala, of Charaidand village under the Duldula police station area in Jashpur district committed suicide in June 2019, after his farm loans were not waived.
Rahul Gandhi had claimed that the Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan had waived off the loans of farmers in “2 days”. What he did not mention was the complete sham the loan waiver was. For all these months the Congress Government has been playing on the poor farmer’s sentiments to garner votes from themselves. It has repeatedly targeted the BJP about farm loan waiver issue and conflated the meaning of ‘loan waiver’ and ‘loan write off’. However, the tactical plans now lie exposed as its own loyalists have started surrendering to the fact that Rahul Gandhi’ promise is nothing but a mere lie.