Kerala govt announces two major reliefs for farmers

Pinarayi Vijayan
Pinarayi Vijayan
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Thiruvananthapuram: The state government announced two major relief measures for farmers in the state in the Assembly on Monday.

One, state cooperative banks, urban banks and other cooperative banks coming under the RBI would be asked not to issue property attachment notices under the SARFAESI (Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest) Act.

Two, all loans of up to Rs 2 lakh taken by farmers from both cooperative and commercial banks will be written off. Earlier in February, it was decided only loans taken from coperative banks would be written off.

The decision to censure coopearative banks from implementing the provisions of the SARFAESI Act was announced by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during the discussion in the Assembly on the adjournment motion moved on farmer suicides. The chief minister's intervention came while agriculture minister V S Sunil Kumar was replying to the motion.

Opposition benches had said that cooperative banks under the control of the government were sending attachment notices to famers even though a moratorium was in force. The government had declared a moratorium on repayment till December 31, 2019. The agriculture minister had said that it was the former UDF government that had included cooperative banks within the purview of the SARFAESI Act.

Sunil Kumar said that the Agriculture Debt Relief Commission had already started accepting applicaions from farmers who had taken loans from cooperative banks. “Now, we have decided to include loans taken from commercial banks, too, within the purview of the Debt Relief Commission,” the minister said.

He said that the General Administration Department and the Agriculture Department would soon hold talks with commercial banks to take forward the proposal. “The policy will be firmed up in a few months,” the minister said.

It was a special cabinet held in February this year that had decided to push the relief provided by the Debt Relief Commission to Rs 2 lakh.

Before the special cabinet, the Debt Relief Commission would pay 75 per cent of the repayment amount if it is Rs 50,000 or less. Anything above Rs 50,000, the Commission will pay only 50 percent subject to a maximum of Rs one lakh. The special cabinet in February pushed the upper limit to Rs 2 lakh.

Also, the Commission had powers to decide on loans taken only from cooperative banks. Now, the government will be attempting to bring loans from commercial banks, too, under the Commission's remit.

The guidelines of the State Debt Relief Commission, formed in 2006 after a spate of farmer suicides across the state, has also been relaxed. Besides providing major relief to Idukki and Wayanad farmers, farmers in other districts too will stand to gain. As per the existing guidelines, except for Wayanad, the Commission's cut off date for considering debt relief was loans taken till October 31, 2011. For Wayanad district alone, it was March 31, 2014.

Now, March 31, 2014, is the new limit the Commission has been asked to set for all districts, except Wayanad and Idukki for which the new limit is August 31, 2018. This means that the Commission can provide relief to farmers in Wayanad and Idukki who had taken loans just before the floods.

The government has also decided to bear up to nine per cent of the interest for the new loans taken for long-term crops like coffee, rubber and coconut. The compensation for crop loss, too, has been upped 100 percent from the levels fixed in 2015.

Nonetheless, the opposition staged a walkout saying that the government had failed to give a deadline for the loan write off.

Thiruvananthapuram: The state government announced two major relief measures for farmers in the state in the Assembly on Monday.

One, state cooperative banks, urban banks and other cooperative banks coming under the RBI would be asked not to issue property attachment notices under the SARFAESI (Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest) Act.

Two, all loans of up to Rs 2 lakh taken by farmers from both cooperative and commercial banks will be written off. Earlier in February, it was decided only loans taken from coperative banks would be written off.

The decision to censure coopearative banks from implementing the provisions of the SARFAESI Act was announced by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during the discussion in the Assembly on the adjournment motion moved on farmer suicides. The chief minister's intervention came while agriculture minister V S Sunil Kumar was replying to the motion.

Opposition benches had said that cooperative banks under the control of the government were sending attachment notices to famers even though a moratorium was in force. The government had declared a moratorium on repayment till December 31, 2019. The agriculture minister had said that it was the former UDF government that had included cooperative banks within the purview of the SARFAESI Act.

Sunil Kumar said that the Agriculture Debt Relief Commission had already started accepting applicaions from farmers who had taken loans from cooperative banks. “Now, we have decided to include loans taken from commercial banks, too, within the purview of the Debt Relief Commission,” the minister said.

He said that the General Administration Department and the Agriculture Department would soon hold talks with commercial banks to take forward the proposal. “The policy will be firmed up in a few months,” the minister said.

It was a special cabinet held in February this year that had decided to push the relief provided by the Debt Relief Commission to Rs 2 lakh.

Before the special cabinet, the Debt Relief Commission would pay 75 per cent of the repayment amount if it is Rs 50,000 or less. Anything above Rs 50,000, the Commission will pay only 50 percent subject to a maximum of Rs one lakh. The special cabinet in February pushed the upper limit to Rs 2 lakh.

Also, the Commission had powers to decide on loans taken only from cooperative banks. Now, the government will be attempting to bring loans from commercial banks, too, under the Commission's remit.

The guidelines of the State Debt Relief Commission, formed in 2006 after a spate of farmer suicides across the state, has also been relaxed. Besides providing major relief to Idukki and Wayanad farmers, farmers in other districts too will stand to gain. As per the existing guidelines, except for Wayanad, the Commission's cut off date for considering debt relief was loans taken till October 31, 2011. For Wayanad district alone, it was March 31, 2014.

Now, March 31, 2014, is the new limit the Commission has been asked to set for all districts, except Wayanad and Idukki for which the new limit is August 31, 2018. This means that the Commission can provide relief to farmers in Wayanad and Idukki who had taken loans just before the floods.

The government has also decided to bear up to nine per cent of the interest for the new loans taken for long-term crops like coffee, rubber and coconut. The compensation for crop loss, too, has been upped 100 percent from the levels fixed in 2015.

Nonetheless, the opposition staged a walkout saying that the government had failed to give a deadline for the loan write off.

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