Last August when Dnyaneshwar Janardhan Awate, a small farmer from Paithan taluka in Aurangabad district, received ₹15,34,624 in his account he was beyond delighted.

He did not really wonder about the mysterious deposit but assumed it was a bounty from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He believed the Opposition’s claim that the Prime Minister had promised during his election campaign in 2014 to deposit ₹15 lakh into every citizen’s bank account by bringing back the black money stashed away in secret overseas accounts..

Awate, like many other farmers in his village, had been waiting for this moment. So when the money flowed into his account, he assumed the promise was being fulfilled and withdrew ₹9 lakh to construct a house. He even wrote to the PM thanking him.

A rude shock

Just as work on his house was drawing to a close, his bank – Bank of Baroda - stopped him from withdrawing the remaining money. Around December the local gram panchayat and the government administration had realised that the fund allocated to the Pimpalwadi gram panchayat under the 15th Finance Commission was “mistakenly” deposited in Awate’s account.

The bank, the gram panchayat and the administrative officials are now blaming each other, but all of them are agreed that Awate should return the money. Someone had apparently mistakenly provided Awate’s bank account number instead of the gram panchayat’s for the money transfer

Now, the poor farmer is a worried man. His bank has warned him of legal action if the money is not returned.

Farmer Dnyaneshwar Janardhan Awate

Farmer Dnyaneshwar Janardhan Awate

“When ₹15,34,624 was deposited in my account all of a sudden, I waited for 4-5 months to know about the amount. I felt that Modiji has done this,” says Awate. He has only a two-acre piece of unirrigated land and says his financial condition is such that he can only return the money in instalments. Local villagers support Awate as the situation is not of his making, and are demanding that the bank must convert the amount withdrawn by Awate into a home loan.

But banker Prashant Pawar, director of Satyavijay Co-operative Bank, is of the view that the bank has every legal right to recover the amount from the farmer. “In this particular case, it is a liability of the bank to recover the amount. One who has made a mistake by quoting the wrong account number is also accountable,” said Pawar. He added that the amount deposited in the farmers’ account is government money and a banker can repair the mistake by correcting the credit-debit balance.

A dream house has come true for Awate, but the nightmare of a repayment now looms large.

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