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SBI chief bats for DBT over farm loan waivers

Bengaluru: State Bank of India (SBI) Chairman Rajnish Kumar on Monday said he favours Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) for farmers instead of farm loan waivers.

“We are in the last leg of loan waivers in India. The country is now moving towards DBTs after Telangana first implemented it,” Kumar told reporters on the margins of a bank event here.

“I’m all for DBT as it is better to have financial support for farmers each year than liabilities over a period of time,” the SBI chairman stressed.

In 2018, the Telangana government announced its ‘Rythu Bandhu’ scheme to provide an income support of Rs 4,000 per acre per crop season to farmers in the state.

“We have seen Odisha and even the recent Union Budget announcing similar direct income support schemes,” Kumar said, adding that the country cannot afford to have both farm loan waivers and DBTs.

“If Central government and state government’s resources are combined, we can ensure income support for farmers,” he said.

With the prices of agricultural produce falling, farming has turned into an “unviable” activity, he said.

“Loan waivers cannot support the farmers.”

Finance Minister Piyush Goyal on February 1 announced in the Interim Budget for fiscal 2019-20 a direct annual income support of Rs 6,000 to 12 crore small and marginal farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM Kisan) scheme.

The SBI chief was speaking on the sidelines of the bank’s event to present ‘Yono SBI 20 Under Twenty’ Awards for young achievers under the age of 20 across fields including sport, performing arts, literature etc.

The bank will extend its digital banking platform Yono to assist farmers through ‘Yono Krish’, Kumar said.

“The platform, which will be launched by April, will help farmers with inputs on climate, seeds, fertilisers and pesticides, information on prices,” he told IANS at the press conference.

Farmers can also apply for agricultural gold loans and open bank accounts digitally using the platform, which will serve as an online marketplace, he added.

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