Mrunal Manmay Dash

In the second phase, Odisha Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik announced to waive of Rs 441.76 crore interest on crop loans provided during the Kharif season, claiming the move to benefit 35 lakh Kharif farmers in the State.

With this relief, the State government has given up a total waiver of Rs 856.99 crore in crop loan interest in the financial year 2022-23.

Announcing the waiver, CM Patnaik said, “It is a matter of great happiness that our farmers have received a crop loan waiver of more than Rs 400 crore.”

As per the government, the interest waiver money has been paid to all the cooperative banks and 2409 Primary Agriculture Credit Societies (PACS) in the State which have lent money to the farmers.

However, the ground situation tells a different story altogether. When asked, a lot of farmers in several districts of Odisha said they never availed crop loans from the government in the first place, let alone interest waiver.

"There is no benefit on the ground. We never received a farm loan. We generally borrow money from the local lenders at a very high rate and return them with interest after selling our crops,” said, Kamalalochana Swain, a farmer in Polsara.

Similarly, another farmer in Soro, Karunakar Sethi said, “Though the government has declared that they have spent crores of Rupees in crop loan interest waiver, we never got any loan from the government.”

While the government data paints a rosy picture of the agriculture sector, the ground reality is sadly poles apart, attracting criticism from many who allege that the interest waiver is being used as bait ahead of elections.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Odisha government is providing interest-free crop loans up to Rs 1 lakh to farmers and those who wish to take loans more than Rs 1 lakh, will be charged an interest of 2 percent up to Rs 3 lakh.