The Supreme Court decision on Monday to stay the Madras High Court’s order waiving agricultural loans taken by all farmers, has shocked the farmers who protested in New Delhi to draw attention to their plight. Distressed by the apex court’s judgment, P. Ayyakannu of the National South Indian River Interlinking Agriculturist Association, said, “We conducted agitation in Delhi for 41 days. When the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu came to meet us, we requested the CM to not appeal against the Madras High Court’s decision. He promised us he will not appeal.”
The Tamil Nadu government had initially ordered the state cooperative institutions to waive off the loans of small and marginal farmers, amounting to Rs 5,780 crore. The inclusion of farmers with holdings over five hectares would have brought the amount to Rs 7,769.33 crore. The additional amount of Rs 1,980 crores would have granted relief to another 3,00,000 farmers, bringing around 20 lakh farmers under the scheme.
Ayyakannu accused the government of discrepancies in the process of waiving off of loans from state cooperative institutions. “As per the record of land holdings, I own 20 acres (over 8 hectares). But I cultivated only 4 acres (over 1 hectare) and have borrowed money for the same. The government gave me a certificate that my loan has been waived off.”
Ayyakannu compared himself to Jochi Kannu, a landless farmer from Musiri in Tiruchirappalli district, who cultivated five acres of land last year. Ayyakannu alleged that the latter’s loan has not been waived off. “There is a drought in Tamil Nadu. Drought not only affects small and marginal farmers, but also the big farmers,” he added. As per Agriculture Census 2010-11, over 97.93 per cent of operational holdings in Tamil Nadu are below five hectares.
Speaking on the matter, Principal Secretary to Government, Co-operation, Food and Consumer Protection Department Pradeep Yadav said: “This court case is only about whether the judiciary can really get into policy making. Whether they waive off or don’t waive off, it is a call to be taken by the government.”
Battling one of the worst droughts in the past 140 years, a group of farmers from Tamil Nadu, led by Ayyakannu, had agitated at Jantar Mantar to get the PM’s attention. Their demands included a loan waiver and a drought relief package. Their shocking and novel protests made headlines across the country.