Loan Waiver Scheme: Analysis

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Current scenario of Indian Agriculture

  • Indian agriculture is characterised by low scale and low productivity.
  • About 85% of the operational landholdings in the country are below 5 acres and 67% farm households survive on an average landholding of one acre.
  • More than 50% of area under cultivation does not have access to irrigation.
  • Agriculture income generated is not adequate to meet farmers’ needs.

Vice President:

  • Free power and farm loan waivers cannot be a permanent solution to the problems in the agriculture sector : Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu
  • “We have a clamour for populism to win over people during elections. That is not going to solve the problem.”

Increasing trends of debt burden

  • The share of institutional loans disbursed to agriculture and allied sectors has risen from 9% in 2000-01 to 31.4% in 2015-16.
  • The amount of short-term institutional loans for agriculture exceeds the total cost of inputs including hired labour. This indicates that a part of crop loans is spent on non-agricultural purposes.
  • According to NSS surveys on Investment and Debt (NSS-I&D), loans taken by cultivators from non-institutional sources is rising faster than from institutional sources.
  • Much of the growth in household demand in rural India has been debt-ridden and not supported by growth in income.

 

Reasons:

  • Modern agriculture requires investment in farm machinery and inputs like seed, fertiliser, agri-chemicals, diesel and hired labour.
  • Savings generated from unremunerative crop enterprise are inadequate for such investments.
  • Rising expenses on health, education, social ceremonies and non-food items put additional financial demand on farm families.

Loan waiver scheme

  • States like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Karnataka have rolled out farm loan waiver schemes for immediate relief to farmers.
  • The demand for such measures is spreading to other States too.
  • Ultimate goal is to lessen the debt burden of distressed and vulnerable farmers and help them qualify for fresh loans.
  • The success of the loan waiver lies on the extent to which the benefits reach the needy farmers.

Drawbacks of loan waiver scheme

  • It covers only a tiny fraction of farmers. According to 2012-13 NSS-SAS, 48% of the agricultural households did not have any outstanding loan.
  • Out of the indebted agricultural households, about 39% borrowed only from non-institutional sources.
  • The farmers investing from their own savings and borrowing from non-institutional sources are equally vulnerable, but are outside the purview of loan waiver.
  • Provides only a partial relief because half of the institutional borrowing of a cultivator is for non-farm purposes.
  • Many household has multiple loans either from different sources or in the name of different family members, which entitles it to multiple loan waiving.
  • Loan waiving excludes agricultural labourers who are weaker than cultivators in bearing the economic distress.
  • It severely erodes the credit culture, with dire long-run consequences to the banking business.
  • Scheme is prone to serious exclusion and inclusion errors, as evidenced by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s findings in the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008.

Implementation errors

  • According to the CAG report, 13.46% of the accounts, eligible for the benefits under the scheme were not considered by the lending institutes while preparing the list of eligible farmers.
  • In 8.5% of the cases, the beneficiaries were not eligible for either debt waiver or debt relief but were granted the benefits.
  • Around 28% of the beneficiaries were not issued debt relief certificates which would have entitled them to fresh loans.

Other issues with loan waiver scheme:

  • Implications for other developmental expenditure, having a much larger multiplier effect on the economy.
  • A similar amount spent on improvement of agriculture infrastructure and other developmental activities would create a base for future growth and development of the sector.
  • Loan waiving can provide a short-term relief to a limited section of farmers;
  • It has a meagre chance of bringing farmers out of the vicious cycle of indebtedness.
  • There is no concrete evidence on reduction in agrarian distress following the first spell of all-India farm loan waiver in 2008.

Sustainable solutions

  • More inclusive alternative approach is to identify the vulnerable farmers based on certain criteria and give an equal amount as financial relief to the vulnerable and distressed families.
  • Raise income from agricultural activities and enhance access to non-farm sources of income
  • Strengthen the repayment capacity of the farmers by improving and stabilising their income.
  • Improved technology, expansion of irrigation coverage, and crop diversification towards high-value crops are appropriate measures for raising productivity and farmers’ income.
  • Another major source of increase in farmers’ income is remunerative prices for farm produce.
  • More public funding and support
  • Removal of old regulations and restrictions on agriculture to enable creation of a liberalised environment for investment, trading and marketing.
  • States must undertake and sincerely implement long-pending reforms in the agriculture sector with urgency.

Source:

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/think-beyond-loan-waivers/article19311079.ece

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