Kerala bankers committee agrees to be soft on beleaguered farmers

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Thiruvananthapuram, March 6 (IANS) With the Kerala government requesting banks to show more empathy towards the state’s flood ravaged farmers, the State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) on Wednesday agreed not to go ahead with recovery procedures on agricultural loans, said a state minister.

After the committee meeting here, state Agriculture Minister V.S. Sunil Kumar told the media that all loans taken by farmers would have a year’s moratorium and no recoveries would be effected.

“We informed them of the situation in the state and they decided not to use the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act, 2002 (Sarfaesi Act) to recover loans from farmers,” said Sunil Kumar.

“All loans by farmers include loans taken under the agricultural schemes and non agricultural schemes,” added the minister.

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The district level SLBCs will now meet to ensure the enforcement of the decision.

“I have decided to attend the district meeting at Idukki,” added Sunil Kumar.

The state Cabinet had on Tuesday decided to give farmers in Idukki and Wayanad, the worst affected districts in last year’s floods, a moratorium benefit on all loans taken till August 31, 2018.

In other districts, the benefit of moratorium would apply on loans taken by farmers till March 2014. This moratorium was earlier for all loans taken till March 2011.

The decisions came following reports of half-a-dozen farmer suicides in Idukki district over the past two months.

In the aftermath of last year’s floods, banks in the state have been using the Sarfaesi Act to recover loans from farmers.

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As part of this recovery process, notices were being sent to auction residential or commercial properties of those who default.

Close to 15,000 farmers in Idukki district alone have received recovery notices from both commercial and cooperative banks.

According to official statistics, the floods damaged around 11,000 hectares of agricultural land in Idukki leaving almost 35,000 farmers in distress.

–IANS

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