Along with poor rain in some parts of the state, another major crisis brewing in the farmlands of Maharashtra is the lack of institutional credit provided to farmers so far. With only 29 per cent of the loan target disbursed even as the kharif season is well under way, farmers are finding it difficult to raise capital for their activities. Last year, by the middle of July, around 50 per cent of loans had been disbursed.
Figures from the department of cooperation show that of the targeted Rs 40,547.20 crore kharif crop loan, only Rs 11,802.39 crore has been disbursed till July 15. Crop loans are availed by farmers ahead of the sowing season to buy seed, fertilsers, etc. In the absence of institutional finance, they are forced to turn to private money lenders, which often ends in a debt trap for the farmer. Unpaid debts are said to be one of the top reasons for farmer suicides. In Maharashtra, commercial banks, regional rural banks, scheduled commercial banks as well as district central cooperative banks advance crop loans to farmers.
So far, the districts of Beed, Hingoli and Buldhana have seen the worst loan disbursal at 0.04 per cent, 8 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively. The financially weak District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCB)s seem to have fared better than the stronger banks. While the 31 DCCBs have managed to reach 47 per cent of their target, disbursal by the commercial banks stood at 21 per cent. Regional rural banks and scheduled commercial banks had disbursed 13 and 20 per cent of their target respectively.
Banks have blamed the poor cash situation for their inability to disburse the loans. Also, in many cases, farmers have not repaid their existing loans for years, banks point out. While the government has announced a loan waiver, it is yet to be implemented.
With the state setting an ambitious target of 91 per cent loan disbursal by the end of the kharif season, the present situation falls way sort of the mark. Rajiv Satav, Congress MP from Hingoli, blamed the state government for its failure to ensure proper disbursement of crop loan. Satav said he had spoken about the matter in April and the guardian minister of Hingoli had assured of action against bank officials if they fail to give out loans on time. “However, till date, nothing has happened and farmers are left with no option but to go to money lenders for loans, “ Satav said.
Public sector banks have come criticism for their failure to disburse loans on time. Kishore Tiwari, chairman of the government’s committee for alleviation of loan distress, alleged that public sector banks were “not cooperating” with farmers.