Maharashtra PSBs meet barely 10% of kharif crop loan targets

The state government recently waived the condition of submitting an NOC from banks and societies while seeking fresh crop loans

According to IMD’s national agromet advisory service, the prevailing weather conditions are suitable to continue agricultural activities like land preparation and sowing of kharif crops in north-eastern states, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
Nationalised banks in Maharashtra have disbursed barely 10% of the crop loan targets issued by the state government for the kharif season of 2015-16. This finding came to light after a review meeting of bankers held by the state-sponsored Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalambi Mission (VNSSM) in Pune. Farmer activist and VNSSM chairman Kishore Tiwari on Monday held a review meeting with the State Level Bankers Committee (SBLC) and issued an ultimatum to the banks to meet their crop loan targets.

If any farmer commits suicide, if he is not being given loans by these banks, the mission will treat the case as culpable homicide and seek action against the concerned officer, Tiwari warned, adding that no farmer should suffer because of red tapism. “Nationalised banks are hostile to farmer issues and are working against farmer interests,” he alleged.

The state government recently waived the condition of submitting a no-objection certificate (NOC) from banks and societies while seeking fresh crop loans. The government has also decided to waive the stamp duty on the mortgage by farmers for availing crop loans.

The easy crop loan distribution scheme was launched from Wagda village of Kelapur tehsil from May 17. The scheme is being implemented at the behest of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had, after a review meeting on April 28 last, announced that the state would ensure credit supply to even those farmers who had defaulted on loan repayments after 2012. Such farmers would be given crop loans afresh on or before May 31, after their defaulted crop loan rehabilitation is done, Tiwari said.

Both Maharashtra State Co-Operative Bank and Bank of Maharashtra have been instructed to release crop loans to the farmers on the filing of an affidavit and not to insist on an NOC from banks and societies. However, according to Tiwari, nationalised banks are not cooperating at all and are instead seeking search reports and compulsory mortgages from farmers.

This means that distressed farmers will be forced to go back to money lenders and fall into debt traps again, he said. Tiwari pointed out that there are several cases of officers going away on leave for long stretches, leaving farmers in the lurch, though they realise that they have been directed to meet crop loan targets.

The Maharashtra government has targeted a disbursal of crop loans worth R53,282 crore to farmers in the state this season. Of these, district cooperative banks are expected to disburse crop loans worth R17,505 crore while R29,151 crore is expected to be disbursed by commercial and other banks. The share of nationalised banks for crop loan targets has increased to 65% from 30%.

Although the seven districts in the worst-hit Vidarbha and Marathwada regions have registered a 25% decline in farmer suicides between January and April 2016, compared with the last year. Tiwari said there is still great concern about farmers in Marathwada.

“We do not wish that farmers should suffer because of red-tape,” he said. Till date, there have been some 500 farmer suicides, he said. At a review meeting held this week with district collectors to assess the drought situation, CM Fadnavis had told the local administration that efforts should be made to bring farmer suicides down to zero. Yavatmal district, which has witnessed one of the highest number of farmer suicides over the past decade, was picked for the pilot project undertaken by the government to address the agrarian crisis.

Apart from subsidised food and health care, villagers were also engaged in counselling and social networking through ‘bhajan’ and ‘kirtan’ programmes. According to government data, in the first few months of 2016, farmer suicides in Amravati have come down to 14 from 23 (2015); in Yavatmal, to 66 from 122; Washim (20 from 35); Akola (60 from 66); Beed (63 from 83); Nanded (57 from 69); and Jalgaon (49 from 54).

The state government has projected a total cropped area of 15.2 million hectares for the 2016-17 kharif season compared with 13.3 million hectares in the previous season. The Marathwada and Vidarbha regions of the state will lead the shift in cultivation from commercial crops such as cotton and soybean to foodgrains.

The government has also decided to promote the cultivation of pulses. Normally, soybean is cultivated on 60-70% area of Marathwada and VIdarbha. This time, the attempt is to encourage the cultivation of pulses as well. The effort is to establish a research centre for tur dal in Marathwada, Vidarbha and Khandesh.

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