DBT will be given at the rate of Rs 4,000 per acre per season for cropping while zero interest loan will be at the rate of Rs 50,000 per hectare to be capped at Rs 1 lakh per farmer.

he Centre is likely to announce direct benefit transfers (DBT) worth Rs 4,000 per acre per season plus interest-free crop loans up to Rs 1 lakh per farmer in an instant two-fold relief to the farmers, sources in the know told BusinessToday.in.

The initiatives will cost the Centre Rs 2 lakh crore towards DBT and another Rs 28,000-30,000 crore towards interest subvention, adding up to nearly Rs 2.3 lakh crore on an annual basis. At least the Rs 70,000 fertiliser subsidy scheme will be subsumed into the scheme to make it possible. Some other smaller schemes may also get subsumed.

Having lost three crucial state elections to arch rival Congress in December, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is in a rush to appease the most aggrieved community — farmers. The party believes the scheme’s impact must be felt by the intended beneficiaries well before the 2019 general elections to deliver the political dividend it is seeking — return to power.

The Centre has called quickfire meetings at the PMO as well as in NITI Aayog to finalise the announcement which is likely to occur within this week. In this process, officials of nodal ministries agriculture, revenues, expenditure, chemical and fertilisers, food have been asked to meet informally to iron out any glitches.

Officials in the establishment say that there are instructions to arrive at an out-of-box solution to farmer distress. Politically, the issue is becoming a hot potato after Congress president Rahul Gandhi put his weight behind farm debt waiver to attract the votes of farmers back to his party’s fold.

DBT will be given at the rate of Rs 4,000 per acre per season for cropping while zero interest loan will be at the rate of Rs 50,000 per hectare to be capped at Rs 1 lakh per farmer, sources say. The crop loan is already offered to farmers at a subsidised rate of 4 per cent only. Under the scheme, banks will not charge any interest up to Rs 1 lakh of loan.

Centre had set an agricultural loan disbursal target of Rs 10 lakh crore in 2017-18 which had been achieved. Of that, 70 per cent is disbursed for crop loans. But with the whiff of a series of loan waivers, many banks have stopped extending loans to farmers.

Meanwhile, DBT will allow the government to directly transfer the subsidies to farmer instead of routing it via manufacturers and traders.

Here’s how the DBT will work

At the time of sale of agricultural inputs, details of the buyer, his Aadhaar, the quantity, land records, etc. would be captured using a point of sale machine. The Centre will transfer the benefits with the cap of Rs 4,000 per acre per season.

DBT for fertiliser has already begun in earnest in several states this year. Centre has also allocated Rs 70,000 crore towards fertiliser subsidy. DBT works differently at present, with a limited but pivotal role of the manufacturers. With this, we will be successful in plugging the pilferage and will also reach the actual beneficiary, a top official said.

The biggest drawback of the scheme, though, is that it will still fail to cover the entire universe of potential beneficiaries. This is what we are discussing, an official said.

Apart from battling this, the Centre is also required to get the states on board. After all, agriculture is a state subject, and the provincial governments to offer a series of benefits. Yet, there are few takers among the states to share the burden in the ratio of 70:30 as proposed by the Centre. States would prefer the entire burden is borne by the Centre.

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