SC favours preventive, not compensatory, policy on farmers’ distress

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New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) Observing that no coercive steps be taken for the recovery of loan dues from farmers in distress, the Supreme Court on Friday advocated preventive rather than compensatory approach to deal with suicides by farmers.

The apex court said any policy to address the issue could not be tagged with commercial or business considerations.

Crop insurance can’t be business and commercial oriented, a bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said and wondered “how could a farmer pay 30 per cent premium for crop insurance”.

Saying that it was for the government to address the situation and that no coercive steps be taken for loan recovery from farmers in distress, the bench sought a response from authorities on eliminating middlemen from marketing of agriculture produce.

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The court was hearing a PIL by the Tamil Nadu Centre for Public Interest Litigation to draw the apex court’s attention to suicides of farmers in the southern state and need for remedial steps.

Amicus curiae Gopal Shankarnarayan told the bench that the biggest problem for farmers was to sell their agricultural produce and there was also a problem of last-mile connectivity.

As lawyer Raja Raman, representing some Tamil Nadu farmers, said that peasants were committing suicides because of coercive steps taken for recovery of loans and the disrespect they suffered on this count, Shankarnarayan said “there is material to show that coercive steps are being taken”.

“Coercive steps can’t be taken (by) abandoning the procedure. Is there a linkage between coercive steps and suicides?” Justice Misra asked and pointed out that “authorities at the ground level must see to it that schemes are implemented”.

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The amicus curiae said in the event of “crop failure, even the procedure for recovery of loans needs to be suspended”.

Fixing August 4 for next hearing, the court asked the Tamil Nadu government to file a reply on implementation of minimum support price in the state, its awareness among farmers, and availability of procurement centres for agricultural produce.

The court had sought response from the Tamil Nadu government on these counts in its order on May 8.

–IANS

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