NEW DELHI: “They first have deprived the hungry of food, and now they are depriving the farmers” said agriculture expert Devinder Sharma in response to the Maharashtra government's insistence to link first crop insurance to Aadhaar and now loan waiver.

“In doing this, the government is excluding the smallest farmer from the benefit of such schemes. Are all these schemes meant only for the rich farmer?” Sharma asked.

Sharma was speaking to The Citizen following initial reports that the Maharashtra government's insistence that farmers sign up online for loan waivers has run into deep trouble as at least in one instance---and experts said they can be many more---100 farmers have one Aadhaar number. This after the state government had insisted that by linking the loan waivers to Aadhar it would guard against corruption, and ensure that there was no duplication.

Media reports quoted officials as admitting that there is a major problem. "We always thought that the Aadhaar number will be our key to check fake beneficiaries. Now, we don't know how to address this challenge with so many farmers showing the same Aadhaar number. If we have to carry out a manual check, it will take weeks. The farming community is already agitated over the delay in implementation of the scheme," an official from the Maharashtra cooperation department told sections of the media

In fact, initial reports suggest major problems. The names of countless farmers applying for loan waivers is missing, and the details such as the measurement of land do not match. There is complete chaos, with many of the farmers dependent on middlemen for filing online applications. And as was the case with crop insurance, here too as Sharma pointed out, Aadhaar cards have been made only by the more well to do farmers with the smaller and middle level farmers as well being virtually kept out of the scheme with this stipulation by the state government. Bank officials have also expressed worry about the mismatch between the principal amounts and the interest, and hence have not been able to process requests for online waivers according to reports.

Another BJP ruled state Jharkhand just witnessed the death of a young girl as her mother could not get an Aadhar card made mandatory by the state government for food rations. The family had been denied rations for eight months, with malnutrition and disease claiming the young life. The state government of course, remains in denial with even the Global Hunger Report where India has fallen several notches being challenged by pro-government economists who see a difference in malnutrition and hunger.

As Sharma asked, “malnutrition is not hunger? Then what is hunger?” He said government policies are such that the very poor is being excluded, and this in his view is deliberate as the governments do not factor them in. Sharma pointed out that in the crop insurance scheme there has been a major rip off in favour of the insurance companies who have collected Rs 22000 crores from the farmers, and paid out only Rs 8000, ensuring a clear Rs 14000 profit. “If you want to become rich fast, start a company of crop insurance for farmers,” he said.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has called a meeting to look into what could well turn out to be a major fraud, affecting a large number of farmers. The Opposition parties and kisan organisations have strongly criticised the government’s decision for online applications, but to no avail as the CM continued to insist that if this had not been done there would have been financial fraud.

Banks were issued an Agriculture Ministry directive to ensure that the loan waiver was linked to Aadhaar identification.