Are banks not cooperating with Jagan government for execution of welfare schemes?

Amaravati: The heaps of garbage dumped at several commercial banks speak of an on-going “dirty” war involving the AP Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress and the BJP. As an offshoot, the bankers are unwittingly caught in an ugly slugfest surrounding several state and centrally sponsored welfare programmes.     

The commercial banks have been tasked with financing the pet schemes of AP Chief Minister such as Jagananna Thodu and YSR Cheyutha that formed part of the ruling party’s bouquet of nine major election-eve populist schemes called Navaratnas. Besides, the bankers have also been vested with the job of lending for a slew of centrally sponsored welfare schemes that included PM Street Vendor Atma Nirbhar Nidhi Scheme called PMSVA Nidhi scheme. The SVA Nidhi scheme was designed by the Narendra Modi government at the centre for the welfare of hawkers and the other petty –vendors in urban areas who lost their livelihood during the coronavirus pandemic. Under the scheme each beneficiary is entitled to financial assistance of Rs 10,000.

Tough task for bankers

A huge number of 2.3 lakh people enrolled as beneficiaries under the scheme in the state and the bank personnel have been saddled with processing the applications and disbursement of assistance to the eligible people.

Around the same time, the Jagan’s government launched Jagananna Thodu, another major welfare programme aiming to assist the poor rural women folks with a bank-linked finance of Rs 10,000 for each beneficiary. It is proposed to extend interest-free term loan of Rs 10,000 per year to the hawkers, street vendors, and artisans engaged in traditional handicrafts through banks. Around 4.5 lakh beneficiaries have been identified for assistance under the scheme and the bankers asked to complete the task of disbursement of loans in a tearing hurry. It seems like a tug of war with the Central government pulling the bank personnel to one side and the state government in the opposite direction.

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When the bankers expressed their helplessness to meet the deadline set by the state government and disburse loans without even following basic guidelines, they were greeted with garbage heaps. Among the banks subjected to such a defiling was Andhra Bank, founded by father of banking system and veteran Gandhian Bhogaraju Pattabhisitaramaiah, which was recently amalgamated into Union Bank of India, on the Pattabhi road at Machilipatnam.

At Vuyyuru the commissioner of the local civic body has made it official with a banner bearing his name hung at the main gate of a bank protesting “apathy” of banks in financing the Jagananna Thodu scheme. He has even gone official, talking to a TV channel that he did it all only with directions from the district collector.

Public money at stake?

Vetting of applications, preparation of lists of beneficiaries and putting them on the AP government portals took place in the village secretariats by officials from the state government without having any say for bankers. The bank officials have been asked to find the lists of beneficiaries on the portal and start releasing loans, an official told this writer. The bank officials, as custodians of public money, shall have a greater say in identifying the beneficiaries and sanctioning loans only after KYC (know your customer) verification so as not to turn such loans bad loans, the official added.  

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Nirmala Sitaraman, Union Finance Minister, took serious note of the unsavoury development and talked to the state Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy, asking him to ensure corrective measures. The Nirmala’s tweet was followed by sharp criticism from the state BJP leadership, describing the CM as a “copy cat”, borrowing welfare schemes from the NDA government without giving the latter any credit.

BJP president Somu Veerraju said running Jagananna Thodu parallel to the PM SVA Nidhi Scheme is just deplorable. Similarly, YSR Cheyutha, another scheme unveiled by the YSRC government, naming it after Jagan’s father Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, is an extension of the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana Scheme, he said. Veerraju recalled that the previous TDP government also programmed to build around 30 lakh houses for the poor with central funds received under the Prime Minister Awas Yojana Scheme and claimed as if it was its own creation.

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