The Maharashtra government on Thursday night extended by a week the deadline for farmers to apply online for farm loan waivers. They can now submit online applications for farm loan waivers till 22 September as against 15 September earlier, said Subhash Deshmukh, state minister of cooperation, marketing and textile.
The decision comes as a relief to the 4.4 million farmers who had not been able to submit their online applications by 14 September.
When the Fadnavis government announced the Rs34,022 crore loan waiver on 24 June, it claimed that nearly nine million farmers would receive the benefits. By 14 September, around seven million farmers had enrolled for the scheme and 4.5 million of them had completed their online applications, according to an official at the department of cooperation which is implementing the scheme. “By 15 September evening, an additional half a million farmers may submit their applications,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
Deshmukh had earlier in the day said the deadline would not be extended. “The government will not leave in the lurch those farmers who have not yet submitted their online applications, but the deadline will not be extended. The government had consciously set 15 September as the last date to apply so that the various departments implementing the scheme get at least three weeks to verify the online applications and authenticate their eligibility. The government is committed to giving the actual benefits of the loan waiver in the farmers’ bank accounts before Diwali and any extension in the deadline would delay the process,” Deshmukh had said.
Deshmukh heads the ministers’ group formed by Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to implement the loan waiver scheme.
The minister, however, had added that the government would consider the cases of those farmers who had failed to meet the deadline after 1 October, indicating that there may be an extension later on. “The government is committed to providing the loan waiver benefit to nearly 9 million farmers and no eligible farmer will be denied the benefit,” he said.
The Fadnavis government has stated that it would make sure that only eligible farmers get the loan waiver relief. An online application procedure based on a similar model used by the Andhra Pradesh government is being used to link the farmers with their Aadhaar card numbers and bank accounts. Farmers have to fill up a two-page form which is uploaded on the government portal.
The cooperation department official quoted above said the departments of cooperation, revenue, agriculture, and information technology would now sit together with the bankers to sift through these online applications and determine eligibility.
The state government has opened around 26,000 facilitation centres across the state to help farmers enrol themselves and file online applications.
However, farmers at several places in Marathwada and Vidarbha have reported multiple problems and technical snags at these centres which hampered the process.
“There are reports that several farmers have had to wait for days at these centres to complete the process. The government staff deployed at these centres are not familiar with the provisions of the loan waiver and they can only provide technical support. But issues like slow internet connectivity, server break-down, power supply, etc have delayed the process,” another official from the cooperation department said, requesting anonymity.