Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Manmohan promises action against farm loan waiver lapses

NEW DELHI, March 6, 2013 PTI

With the opposition targeting the government on alleged irregularities in the farm loan waiver scheme, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday promised "stringent possible action" against defaulters, if any.

The Prime Minister's assurance came in the Rajya Sabha as the BJP created uproar over the alleged "siphoning off" of farmers' money and a "scam" in the scheme in the wake of the CAG report.

"The reference is to the CAG report on loan waiver scheme. This is a matter which should be entrusted to the Public Accounts Committee as per normal practice. If there are any irregularities, which have been shown, I assure the House that we will take stringent possible action against the defaulters," Dr. Singh said in impromptu comments.

His statement came after BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad raised the issue during Zero Hour, alleging scam in the scheme and his colleagues attacked the government over it.

Unimpressed by the Prime Minister's reply, the BJP members trooped into the well forcing Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien to adjourn the House for a brief period.

Earlier, Mr. Prasad said the CAG report points out that 34 lakh people who should not have got the loan waiver benefit actually got it while 24 lakh farmers who deserved it, could not get it.

"It is a case of clear scam. Bank officials in connivance with the middlemen siphoned off the money of farmers," Mr. Prasad said recalling that the Prime Minister himself had visited Vidharbha in Maharashtra to launch the scheme.

"It is unfortunate that a scam is happening even in this scheme," Mr. Prasad said, adding micro-financing companies are the actual beneficiaries at the cost of farmers even as incidents of farmers' suicides are taking place in many states including Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

As the BJP members rushed into the Well shouting slogans that the "anti-farmer government" would not be allowed to run, Mr. Kurien said it was "unfair" that they are obstructing the functioning of the House after expressing what they wanted to say.

"You had your say and now you are preventing others. The Prime Minister has responded, what more do you want? I will not adjourn the House," he said as BJP members continued to shout slogans.

But, as the members continued with slogan shouting in the Well, he adjourned the House for 10 minutes.

Mr. Prasad earlier said the "tampering of accounts" was done and non-deserving people were given loans.

He also read a circular of the Reserve Bank of India asking banks to take action against the guilty within a fortnight.

After the end of Question Hour, Mr. Kurien called Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to lay a statement correcting minor errors in the railway budget document after other papers were laid on the table.

However, as Mr. Bansal was not present in the House, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla said he would be in the House within 15 minutes.
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