Around 40,000 marginal farmers in Kerala have approached the State Agricultural Debt Relief Commission in the last five months, seeking a waiver of loans they have taken from cooperative banks, sources said.
Officials said the crisis after last year’s flood could be one of the reasons for the large number of applications.
Out of 40,000 pleas from 14 districts, the hilly district of Idukki — where nine farmers committed suicide — accounted for 12,000. The last date for applying for the loan waiver was November 15.
In Idukki and Wayanad districts, where the situation is more severe, the loans availed up to August 31, 2018, are being considered by the commission for debt relief and in other districts it is March 31, 2014.
In June this year, the state government had increased the limit of the farm debt eligible for waiver to Rs 2 lakh from the previous Rs 1 lakh.
“The applicants would be the worst-affected farmers, nothing is left to repay their loans. The commission is dealing with loans that were taken from cooperative banks only. The government had earlier announced that the scheme would cover loans taken from commercial banks too, but so far no decision has come to that effect. If loans from commercial banks are also considered for waiver, the magnitude of the crisis would be more grave,” officials said.
As per the norms, the state government would take up a portion of the financial liability of the farmers. The commission conducts sittings in all districts and recommends the quantum of relief. “In some cases, we have recommended a waiver of 75 per cent of the loan amount. In case of liability of Rs 2 lakh, up to 50 per cent would be waived after detailed perusal,” officials said.
The government had last week told the Assembly that as many as 21 farmers had committed suicide after the floods of 2018. Of the them, nine each hailed from Idukki and Wayanad districts.