More than 53% farmers of Haryana have failed to repay farm loans taken from state cooperative banks and societies on time. As many as 7.38 lakh farmers out of the 13.80 lakh farmers, who had taken farm loans from cooperative banks, have been termed “defaulters” by the government agencies. Once the farmers fail to deposit their loan installments on time, they have to return it with 14% interest and their loan goes increasing.
Take the example of Ram Narayan of Kalali village of Bhiwani district. “I had taken a loan of Rs 65,000 to purchase five buffaloes in 1999. One of them died in 2002. By then, I had deposited around Rs 35,000. After the death of my buffalo, I failed to deposit further installments and my ourdue loan increased to Rs 2.75 lakh. The government initiated process to auction my two acres of land on June 8. I urged them to settle my case. Finally, they agreed to settle it for Rs 2.42 lakh. I hardly could manage the amount to save my land,” says Ram Naryan.
In 2014, the then Hooda government had announced 0% interest to those farmers who return their loans on time. But this facility is available to only those farmers who first clear their overdue loan amount and then start depositing installments on time.
According to the government figures, as many as 88.66% of the “defaulter” farmers are small and marginal farmers, who own 0-5 acres of land. They together have defaulted on a total loan amount of Rs 3909. 73 crore, out of the total defaulting loan amount of Rs 6575.75 crore given by the cooperative bodies to the farmers.
In total, there is outstanding loan of Rs 8,659 crore against the state farmers. “This is just about 20% of the total farm loans taken by Haryana farmers. About 80% share of the farm loan has been taken from the commercial and nationalised banks,” a senior Haryana government official said.
In an attempt to recover the outstanding loans , the cooperative societies sometime initiate process to auction their land holdings in case of long term loans but farmers stage protests stating they are unable to pay loans because of crisis in the agrarian sector.
There are few instances when the government authorities withdrew process of auctioning the land after protests by the farmers.
Haryana State Cooperative Agriculture and Rural Development Bank’s Managing Director Naresh Goyal said, “We try to persuade farmers to repay the loans by telling them about the government initiatives for those who return it on time.”
Government officials concede that many a time farmers take crop loan for their social needs. “When the crops mature, farmers become able to repay only the loan from artiyas (commission agents), from whom they keep taking loans. There are sinking land holdings. In agriculture, it’s only labour of the farmers which is considered as saving of the farmers. But now many of the farmers have almost become dependent on machines which has escalated their crop input cost,” said an officer.
All India Kisan Sabha’s Haryana unit joint secretary Dayanand Poonia said, “For the past many years, especially in southern Haryana, farmers have been facing adverse conditions like drought which keep destroying their crops. Then, the crops are being purchased at throwaway prices.”