Two years after Punjab government notified a ban on kurkis or attachment of farmers’ land by banks in the event of their defaulting on loan payments, several such cases are taking place daily across districts in the state’s Malwa region. Here’s why.
What is kurki of a farmer’s land?
Kurki is attachment of farmers’ land by banks or arhtiyas/sahukars/traders (commission agents and private money lenders) in the event of non-payment of loan or debt.
When was kurki was banned by the Punjab government?
In the run up of 2017 Assembly elections, the Congress party has not only gave the slogan of “karza kurki khatam, fasal di poori rakam (end to indebtedness and kurki, full rate for crops)”, but also after forming the government it declared the abolition of kurki by issuing a notification on July 21, 2017.
How are kurkis executed?
Kurkis are executed under Section 60 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. The land, which is pledged by the farmer to the banks, sahukars (private money lenders) or arhatiyas, gets registered in their name through court order in the event of non-repayment of the loan amount. The lenders, in turn, either take possession of the land or get it auctioned to recover their money.
Arhatiyas are using “pro-notes” (promissory notes) — a written document taken from farmers, and signed by them to obtain kurki orders.
Why are kurkis still happening despite the ban?
When Captain Amarinder Singh’s government declared the abolition of kurki, it deleted the provisions under Section 67-A of Punjab Cooperative Societies Act enabling cooperatives to recover unpaid loans through auctioning of land mortgaged by farmers.
“The main drawback of this notification was that it covered only cooperative banks and does not cover the commercial banks (both public sector and private) and private money lenders/ arhatiyas and shadow banks (private financial Institutions). They are, therefore, obtaining decrees from courts to attach the lands of defaulting farmers,”said Jagmohan Singh, the general secretary of BKU Dakuanda.
How are farmer outfits fighting back?
In last one week, on August 8 and August 5, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) stopped kurkis in village Chughe Kalan and Gill Kalan, respectively. Both villages are in Bathinda district and both cases involved debt owed to arhtiyas.
In one of these cases, a farmer, Puran Singh, had borrowed Rs 3500 over a decade back from an Arhatiya which has now become Rs 7 lakh with interest and to recover the marginal farmer’s land faces the threat of auction.
Another farmer Baljit Singh of Khemuana village had taken loan from Punjab Agricultural Land Development bank and faces the threat of kurki.
“Daily the activists of BKU (Ugrahan) and BKU (Ekta) Daukunda are preventing dozens of kurkis from taking place especially in Bathinda, Mansa, Moga, Sagrur and Faridkot districts and Patiala,” said Jagmohan Singh.
What do experts say about government’s role?
Experts hold the system of making farmers sign pro-notes as a factor responsible for the kurkis. They claim that there are numerous cases where farmers have repaid twice or thrice the amount taken on loan. “If strict implementation of the Sir Chhotu Ram formula is done in Punjab which is not permitting interest and repayment of loans to be more than twice the principal amount, then majority of the kurki cases will end in the state,” said Sardara Singh Johal, a renowned agricultural economist.