Lucknow: More than 12,000 farmers from 506 villages, whose bank loans amounting to over Rs 34 crore had been waived more than a year ago but who were still in the clutches of middlemen and corrupt officials, were liberated by an enterprising Uttar Pradesh government official who decided to address the issue head-on.
Heera Lal helped save Rs 3 crore through his programme
“Farmers’ distress-suicides have made newspaper headlines. So, many economists think the loan waiver is a worthwhile alternative to provide relief. The aim is worthy. But loans to the rural poor in the 1980s demonstrated that crooked officials demanded bribes amounting to may be one-third the intended benefits,” said Heera Lal, the chief development officer of Firozabad.
A government order (GO) had been issued on December 12, 2012, under a ‘Debt waiver scheme’ for farmers who had mortgaged productive agricultural land to raise loans of up to Rs 50,000 and had paid 10 per cent of the principal. The state-run Sahkari Gram Vikas Bank waived off Rs1,650 crore worth of loans to 710,000 farmers. All of them were to be issued certificates to this effect by the bank's headquarters in Lucknow.
But with middlemen and touts, the farmers were not able to approach the bankers directly. “It was at this point that I decided to intervene and experiment with a new procedure which helped save approximately Rs 3 crore (bribe included) by organising a certificate distribution programme in one day,” he added of the distribution ceremony earlier this month.
“Bank officials informed that no certificate was given. We planned a distribution ceremony to give all 12,026 certificates in one day at one place. With this aim to achieve we started elaborate and foolproof preparations,” Heera Lal said.