Mumbai: With an average of 5 farmland suicides reported in Maharashtra daily, a senior Shiv Sena leader on Friday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s urgent personal intervention to crack the whip and direct public sector and commercial banks to immediately extend crop loans to the farmers.
In a representation to the PM, Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavlamban Mission (VNSSM) President Kishore Tiwari said that monsoon is on in full swing and distressed farmers are in dire need of crop loans to ensure their survival till next year.
“Shockingly, the Centre has not yet issued orders to the public sector banks via Reserve Bank of India or NABARD to sanction the loans of those farmers who figure in the state government’s list of loan waiver beneficiaries,” Tiwari told IANS.
“While Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has repeatedly appealed for bank finance to all farmers, all public, private and other commercial banks continue to ignore the request. Hence, today more farmers are committing suicide than the Covid-19 deaths in rural parts of the state,” Tiwari said.
The CM is also the Chairman of the State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) which is empowered to address the farmland crises, but unfortunately, since March there have been 1,860 farmers suicides compared to 1,100 Covid-19 deaths in (rural) Maharashtra, he said.
Tiwari urged the PM and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to immediately instruct the RBI and NABARD to order all banks to take up the reconstruction of pending crop loans and start disbursing fresh loans, particularly for the dying farmers in the worst-hit Vidarbha and Marathwada regions.
“As per the Union Budget, the state’s share is Rs 1.20 lakh crore as agriculture-outlet target, but at the current rate and speed of disbursals, only 25 percent of this (target) will be achieved for 2020-2021,” said Tiwari.
Citing other issues, he said previously the district cooperative banks share in the total loan disbursements was upto 70 percent which has now been reduced to only 30 percent, while the responsibility of 70 percent has been given to the public sector banks by the Centre.
Of the estimated 80 per cent of the total loan amount of Rs 40,000 crore that was due to be disbursed by July (2020) for the current monsoon, barely Rs 4,000 crore, or about 10 per cent has been actually given, he said.
Under the state’s ambitious Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Shetkari Karj Mukti Yojana (MJPSKMY), there were plans to make around 30 lakh farmers totally debt-free this year, said Tiwari, who is also Advisor to the Chief Minister.
Though a list of 19 lakh farmer beneficiaries was announced in March, so far hardly around 9 lakh farmers have benefited. Later, attention was diverted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Under the MJPSKMY alone, Rs 19,000 crore was expected to be disbursed, but owing to the banks’ sheer non-cooperation, barely Rs 11,000 crore has actually reached 9 lakh farmers till date. Now the monsoon has begun all over,” he said.
Instead of giving fresh loans, now these banks are resorting to alleged illegalities like deducting the crop loan amount from the crop insurance compensation given to the farmers which could attract criminal action right down to the banks’ branch manager levels, Tiwari warned.
“We urge the Centre to order banks to comply with the state government’s request on top priority, failing which criminal action should be taken against the banks and their officers, with the RBI-NABARD mandated for further action.
Any further delays and the farmers stand to lose the opportunity of a good monsoon expected this year,” Tiwari pointed out.
Since there are similar complaints from other states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, the VNSSM head said that the PM or FM should authorise the CM of the respective states to take to task all such errant banks and their officers.