In the recent assembly elections, the Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been trying to corner the Modi government on the issue of farmer woes. The grand old party made tall promises of farm loan waiver before going to polls in almost every manifesto. In Rajasthan, the Rahul Gandhi led party has promised farm loan waiver within 10 days of coming to power. It remains to be seen whether there is even a little substance in these lofty promises. However, the case of Karnataka suggests otherwise.
In the run-up to Karnataka assembly polls, Congress president, Rahul Gandhi had made a similar promise that if his party comes to power, then the farm loans would be waived within ten days. JD (S) which later formed a coalition government with the Congress in the state made an even more improbable and casual promise of waiving farm loans within 24 hours. This obviously turned out to be a mere political gimmick. It has been more than six months but there are no signs of a comprehensive farm loan waiver in the state. The farmers must have felt cheated about how the state government unabashedly failed to implement an effective farm loan waiver scheme despite the tall pre-poll promises by both the Congress and the JD (S). However, they were in for a greater shock. Last month, it came to light that the farmers were not only denied loan waiver but several of them were also served arrest warrants secured by several banks on account of unpaid loans. While some nationalised banks instituted suits for recovery, the private ones went on to file criminal cases on charges of dishonour of cheques against the farmers. This led to strong protests by farmers against whom arrest warrants were served. Chamarasa Patil, president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), went on to say, “In the first meeting he had convened in May, the chief minister had promised that loans would be waived in two phases. He had said in the first phase, crop loans would be waived and in the second phase, other loans would be waived. This made the farmers wait before paying their monthly installments and now they are in distress.”
What is important to mention here is the fact that Karnataka government had already narrowed down the scope of its farm loan waiver scheme. The Congress-JD (S) had imposed 11 conditions for getting benefit of the farm loan waiver scheme. In fact, the Karnataka government recently admitted that only 800 farmers have been helped thus far under the Rs 44,000-crore farm loan waiver scheme. It is clear that even if the scheme is implemented, it won’t be very effective. This clearly shows that the farm loan waiver scheme that was being projected in a big way was only about pomp and show without any substance.
The case of Karnataka where the Congress president had promised to waive farm loans within ten days and after several months arrest warrants were served shows that the party is taking this issue rather casually. Even in the case of states where Congress has now managed to come into power, it cannot be reasonably expected to make a huge difference given how it cheated farmers in the case of Karnataka. Therefore, the Congress might have managed to make political use of farmers’ sentiments, it will have a difficult time going ahead if it continues to take it lightly and continues its dilly-dallying on the farm loan waiver scheme.