PM assures action on farm loan waiver irregularities
New Delhi, March 6 : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday said stringent action would be taken if any irregularities are found in the Rs.52,000 crore farm loan waiver scheme of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
"The reference is to the CAG report on loan waiver scheme. This is a matter which would interest the PAC (Public Accounts Committee)," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, when the issue was raised in the upper house.
"If there are any irregularities which are found, I assure the house we will take stringent action against defaulters," the prime minister told the Rajya Sabha.
He was responding after opposition Bharatiya Janata party raised the issue, calling it a "scam".
"There has been account tampering, 34 lakh (over three million) farmers did not get the benefit. Farmers are committing suicide," BJP leader Ravishankar Prasad said, raising the issue in zero hour.
"This is not just account fudging, this is a scam and it is very painful. Government should say why such irregularity was there," he said.
Even as the prime minister assured action, BJP members kept agitating and trooped near the chairman's podium, shouting slogans and calling the government "anti-farmer".
Amidst the din, Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien adjourned the house for 10 minutes.
The Lok Sabha also saw an uproar with question hour adjourned over the issue.
The lower house was adjourned till noon Wednesday after noisy protests by opposition parties over discrepancies in the Rs.52,000 crore farm loan waiver scheme of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
As soon as the house met, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Samajwadi Party demanded suspension of question hour to discuss the "scam".
The issue was taken up during zero hour in the Lok Sabha. Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said: "All corruption charges earlier involved the government, but this is a case where bank officials siphoned off the money under the nose of the government".
"The Reserve Bank of India had given a 15-day deadline to correct the discrepancies. We want to know first why you were sleeping," she said.
"This is an important matter related to farmers, who are already burdened. I will say the country is shamed, not the government," she said.
Samajwadi Party MP Reoti Raman Singh said the matter raised by the CAG report was very serious, one that involved farmers in a nation of farmers.
"If this waiver had been implemented properly then some farmers could have been saved from committing suicide. The report is a shocker," he said.
JD-U MP Sharad Yadav said: "RBI gave a deadline, but still government was not able to do anything. The probe should begin today".
Sudip Bandhopadhyay of Trinamool Congress said: "Those who were selected (to receive the loan waiver) did not receive it."
"It is a very unfortunate case. Each one of us should be concerned with that," he said.
CPI-M's Basudeb Acharia said: "All opposition parties had supported the scheme when it was announced. But we had cautioned then that the implementation should be proper".
"The money of the farmers has been looted," he added.
RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, who was in the UPA when the scheme was announced in 2008, said: "We had good intentions when we started the scheme. Even before a structured discussion, there should be action. All (guilty people) should be sent to jail".
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its report tabled in parliament Tuesday on the "Implementation of Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008" said there were irregularities in at least one in five cases.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government had announced a debt waiver for farmers across the country in 2008, a move analysts say helped the government win the 2009 general election.